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Chapter 5.8

Use Imaging to Store Vehicle Title Records


Summary

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) currently uses microfilm to store all records related to each vehicle’s title history. However, technology now exists that would reduce the amount of time it takes to research a title history, as well as the amount of time and space it takes to copy and store the original documents. TxDOT needs to replace the existing microfilm system with the new imaging technology.


Background

On request, TxDOT researches a vehicle’s title history to verify present and past ownership since the vehicle was first registered in the state. The public, the courts and law enforcement agencies request title histories for a variety of reasons, including verification of current ownership, replacement titles, certified copies of titles, salvage title certificates and title reinstatements.[1] Requests for histories are made in writing or by telephone to the Vehicle Titles and Registration (VTR) Customer Information Services or other VTR branches, which send them on to the Vehicle Data Management (VDM) branch.

To complete a title history, a VDM employee needs to know the document number that appears on the vehicle title or a vehicle identification number. The employee then locates the appropriate roll of microfilm in the file cabinet, finds the appropriate pages on the reel and prints the information. By reviewing these pages, the VDM employee determines the next roll of microfilm that must be pulled to document the previous title and owner. The employee re-files the first roll of film and pulls the next roll from the file cabinet, following the same process back to the original registration.

During fiscal 1999, VTR received 75,931 requests for information that resulted in 274,936 photos from their microfilm library. With five employees and a manager processing these requests, each VDM employee is able to handle 61 requests per day or eight requests per hour.[2]


Use of Microfilm

A company in San Antonio microfilms vehicle titles and associated paperwork and correspondence for the VDM. The vendor sends VTR a copy of the microfilm and retains the original paper documents. VTR has one week to notify the vendor that the film is of acceptable quality, at which time the vendor destroys the paper documents and sends the original microfilm to VTR. VTR stores the original microfilm at a General Services Division (GSD) location for security in case something happens to the duplicate, and uses the duplicate film in their daily operations. VTR maintains both the original and the duplicate copy for 16 years plus the current year.

VTR’s three-year budget for microfilming with the vendor totals $4.2 million. VTR receives between 60 and 90 boxes of documents, about 450,000 pieces of paper, each week. These documents are picked up by the microfilm vendor each week and taken to San Antonio where they are microfilmed. The vendor delivers one original and one duplicate microfilm copy of all of the documents to VTR each week. VTR has about 62,500 reels of microfilm stored on site with about that number of originals stored off site at a GSD location.[3]


Imaging Technology

Technology is now available that can capture an image of a title or correspondence and store the image on a computer, allowing anyone, anywhere to pull up the image if they have the proper security clearance. This technology also allows users to access the image over the Internet. The technology exists to have the system search for previous records based on an identification number such as the vehicle identification number or the vehicle title document number. This search feature would enable VDM staff to review complete vehicle histories at one time rather than performing multiple searches. The search time for documents tied together by a static unique number would take seconds instead of the current average of about eight minutes.[4]

Imaging technology comes with security to control access, backup processes to store data for long periods off site, and the storage capacity to maintain a large volume of records for many years. The hardware and software needed for imaging has many variables and, based on the functions desired, would have different cost factors. VTR could implement a system that would be capable of imaging 450,000 documents per week using two document identifiers for a first-year cost of about $980,000. Second- and third-year costs would be $60,000 per year.[5] These estimates assume that the employees currently handling the microfilm process would handle the imaging of documents as well as responding to title history requests.

Several districts and divisions in TxDOT currently use imaging to support operations. For example, TxDOT’s Motor Carrier Division (MCD) has been operating an imaging system for several years. MCD employees scan 100,000 documents per month and use nine indexes to store and retrieve information. Cost of the system was $850,000, including training, and yearly maintenance is $53,000. MCD estimates that it would take 20 more employees to handle the work without this technology.[6]


Recommendation

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) should implement an imaging system to replace the current microfilm process.

TxDOT should determine the amount of previously microfilmed documents, if any, that should be converted to images. In addition, TxDOT should determine number of indexes necessary to retrieve information and the desired response time to its customers, and should include this information in its request for proposal.

As TxDOT begins imaging documents, it should phase out its microfilm library.


Fiscal Impact

The current microfilm contract is $4.2 million for a three-year period, or about $1.4 million per year. This cost would no longer be incurred after the imaging system is in place. The cost of hardware, software and implementation for an imaging system is estimated at $980,000, with yearly maintenance costs totaling $60,000. The cost in the first year would be offset by savings of $700,000. The savings would total about $1.4 million per year beginning in fiscal 2003. The fiscal 2002 estimate assumes only a half year of savings due to implementation of the new system.

This estimated net savings represent the amounts of the State Highway Fund revenue that could be redirected to other TxDOT programs or budget items.

Fiscal Year
Savings to the State Highway Fund
Cost to the State
Highway Fund
Net Savings/(Cost) to the State Highway Fund Available to Redirect
2002
$700,000
($980,000)
($280,000)
2003
$1,400,000
($60,000)
$1,340,000
2004
$1,400,000
($60,000)
$1,340,000
2005
$1,400,000
($60,000)
$1,340,000
2006
$1,400,000
($60,000)
$1,340,000

Endnotes

[1 ]Interview with Joel Lehman, branch manager, Vehicle Data Management, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, April 11, 2000.

[2 ]Interview with Joel Lehman, branch manager, Vehicle Data Management, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, April 11, 2000; Texas Department of Transportation, Microfilm Summary of Fiscal Year 1999 Statistics provided by Joel Lehman; and letter from Kirby W. Pickett, P.E., deputy executive director, Texas Department of Transportation, to Clint Winters, Research and Policy Development, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, August 21, 2000.

[3 ]Telephone interview with Linda Waldon, microfilm supervisor, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, July 28, 2000, and Terry Clements, title history supervisor, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, August 18, 2000, telephone interview with Joel Lehman, branch manager, Vehicle Titles and Registration Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, June 28, 2000.

[4 ]Telephone interview with Scott Winzler, manager, FileNet, Austin, Texas, June 28, 2000, and telephone interview with Scott Winzler, manager, FileNet, Austin, Texas, June 27, 2000.

[5 ]Telephone interview with Scott Winzler, manager, FileNet, Austin, Texas, July 7, 2000.

[6 ]Telephone interview with Mark Ferrari, technical manager, Motor Carrier Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, Texas, June 28, 2000.