The state Department of Motor Vehicles will experiment with something new next month aimed at shortening long lines at its offices.
Starting June 4, the DMV office in Beaufort, along with 11 other offices in the state, will require applicants to make appointments to take road tests for a standard driver's license or a motorcycle license.
Requiring appointments, which the DMV hopes will create an even flow of people taking road tests each day, could get everyone through offices more smoothly, officials said Tuesday.
"When you have 15 customers waiting in line to take a 20 to 40 minute road test, you get a bottleneck that makes everyone wait longer," DMV executive director Kevin Shwedo said.
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The DMV office at 15 Sheridan Park in Bluffton, which serves southern Beaufort County residents, will not participate in the program, at least initially. It will continue offering road tests on a first-come, first-served basis.
The 12 DMV offices selected for the program were chosen because they are equipped with computer software that records how many people are in the office and the estimated waiting time for the next road test, DMV spokeswoman Beth Parks said.
Data from those offices will be monitored at least until August before the DMV decides its next step.
"The next move will be decided after the summer season," Parks said, adding that the appointment-only policy for road tests could be added or eliminated at individual DMV offices, depending on how effectively it cuts down on waiting time.
In the Beaufort office, driver's license applicants will be able to make appointments to take road tests from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. To book an appointment, call 843-379-8822 and leave a voice-mail message with your name and phone number. A DMV staff member will call back within one business day.
During the testing hours, road tests will not be given to walk-in applicants unless there is a cancellation. Applicants who arrive 10 minutes or more late may lose their appointment time to a walk-in customer.
The Beaufort office is at 28 Munch Dr.
The appointment-only policy is the DMV's latest effort to make service snappier, Parks said.
Another recent change calls for part-time employees with less training to be assigned simple but time-consuming tasks, such as taking photos for driver's licenses. That frees up fully trained workers to deal with customers, Parks said.
"Most full-time clerks have to know about 400 different transactions," Parks said.
DMV offices also post workers near the entrance to waiting rooms to greet customers and make sure they've brought the records needed to get a license, change a title or transact other business. In the past customers often waited for lengthy periods only to be told when they made it to the front of the line that they were missing required documents.