The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) recently completed a massive systemwide technology upgrade, deploying 2,600 new PCs across the state’s 254 counties. County tax assessor collector (TAC) offices, which conduct vehicle transactions for the TxDMV, also received larger monitors, new printers, keyboards and mice.

PCs with robust processors and a smaller form factor are taking up less space in county offices, while new routers, switches and cables are strengthening the network and improving connectivity, officials say. The new hardware is helping make vehicle title and registration processing more efficient. The DMV can now distribute its interactive training materials to county offices, a capability its old system didn’t have.

Dawn Heikkila, TxDMV’s chief operating officer, explained in an interview with Government Technology that the upgrade, while a long time coming, positions the agency for future improvements that are already in development.

“We're trying to be forward-looking and think about where the agency is headed in terms of service delivery and how our applications are delivered to our business partners. We deployed networking equipment that was wireless-enabled so that when the agency's technology infrastructure matures enough to allow that, we can actually push out Web-based applications.”

Nascent Agency Inherited Aging Infrastructure

Until recently, vehicle-related services were housed within the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Legislation in 2009 removed these functions from TxDOT and created the DMV, focusing on services commonly delivered by state motor vehicle departments.

By the Numbers:

  • New Tech for Texas DMV
  • Number of new workstations: 2,600
  • Number of Texas counties: 254
  • Total number of physical locations: 497
  • Length of project (planning to full deployment): 12 months
  • Total cost: $8.4 million
  • Number of vehicles registered each year in Texas: 21 million-plus
The Texas DMV registers and issues titles for vehicles, licenses and regulates car dealers, permits oversize/overweight vehicles, provides vehicle-related consumer protection services and awards law enforcement grants aimed at reducing auto theft. State drivers’ licenses are issued by the Department of Public Safety.

The DMV inherited aging technology in the county tax offices, where its services are administered. With some equipment more than seven years old, it was showing its age. Maintenance and break-fix costs were adding up, according to administrators.

But the prospect of an overhaul was daunting, especially across the 270,000-square-mile area of Texas. Officials explained that staff in remote offices were less comfortable with the idea of a completely new technology setup.

“When you tell them we're going to come in and totally redo your network. We're going to take you completely down and bring you completely back up — it's very unsettling for a lot of these folks,” Heikkila said.

The statewide effort engaged a core group of about a dozen internal DMV staff, supported by peers within the organization as well as their legacy agency, the DOT. Heikkila said assistance from deployment vendor Insight was critical to the project’s success as well.

Future Plans to Enhance Service

Officials take pride in the fact that such a large deployment took place with minimal impacts to business operations. The whole process — including planning, evaluation, equipment identification, scheduling and installation — spanned one calendar year. Deployment concluded in April 2012.

Jeremiah Kuntz, the DMV’s director of government and strategic communications, explained that with new infrastructure in place, the DMV is moving forward with an RFP to update the mainframe database. This is the next step in preparing for a Web-based application that officials envision for use at the county level.

“What we're trying to do is get ahead of the curve and get the systems in place that will be able to handle the new software when it rolls out,” he said.

Other plans to leverage technology include the addition of online self-service options. Agency administrators explained that planning efforts are now under way, with deployment expected in 2013.

Noelle Knell, Assistant Web Editor Noelle Knell  |  Managing Editor

Government Technology managing editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience, writing about public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she graduated from the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.