Writing the DMV

I emailed the director of the California DMV to see why new license plates take so long to arrive. Let’s see if he writes back:

From: Paul Schreiber
Subject: DMV’s great (and terrible) efficiency
Date: September 27, 2006 9:09:18 am PDT
To: George Valverde <gvalverde@dmv.ca.gov>
Security: Signed


A few years ago, I moved to California from Canada. My impression of the DMV was that it had always been a punch line to a joke or a sight gag on _The Simpsons_.

I was glad to find out I was wrong. :)

After a few initial hiccups (“convenience fee?”) I’ve been consistently impressed with the online license renewal and vehicle registration renewal. The site works in any browser, takes two minutes, is free, and is pretty much foolproof. And the best part: you get everything in the mail two days later. Well done!

This, naturally, leads me to question the extended delays associated my other interaction with the DMV: buying a new car.

In many jurisdictions, including Ontario, Canada, where I grew up, you get the plates from the dealer when you drive the car off the lot. In California, you get them mailed to you. It’s a bit strange to me, but perfectly reasonable. What’s not reasonable is that this process takes 4-6 weeks.

I tried to think of explanations, but could come up with none:
* a shortage of license plates (unlikely, these aren’t just-in-time parts, but can be stockpiled)
* slow processing time or lack of staff (unlikely, since you turn things around in 3 days)
* USPS (they’re not _that_ slow)

So: why _does_ this take so long? And is anything going to be done to change it?

Thank you.

Paul Schreiber

shad 96c / uw cs 2001
/ mac activist / fumbler / eda / headliner / navy-souper
fan of / sophie b. / steve poltz / habs / bills / 49ers /

“Luck is the residue of design.” — Branch Rickey

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