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West Virginia Wants to Rule Digital Vehicle Titles

The state, along with Tyler Technologies, has launched a clearinghouse designed to make title transfers quicker and less costly. Retailers, insurers, salvagers and fleet managers could benefit from the system.

West Virginia wants to become the center of the growing digital title industry in the U.S., and gov tech is playing a prime role in that effort.

Texas-based Tyler Technologies and CHAMPtitles, a Cleveland-based digital title company, have launched the National Digital Titling Clearinghouse in the Mountain State.

The clearinghouse is the first of its kind in the U.S., according to state officials.

A law signed in February by Gov. Jim Justice allows the creation of the system via which non-resident businesses — this includes auto dealers, fleets, salvagers, refinancers and insurance firms — can transform out-of-state titles into West Virginia titles. That can help with fleet and inventory management as well as insurance claims, among other tasks.

The goal is to severely reduce the time it takes to process titles, cutting down that waiting period from more than a month to days or even hours by substituting the traditional paper process with digital.

All that time adds costs and complications to such transactions as online automobile sales and insurance payouts, CHAMP CEO Shane McRann Bigelow told Government Technology. The clearinghouse is not meant to handle individual title transfers such as happen when a car owner moves to another state.

“As physical [vehicle] retailers move online, this solves their problems for them,” when it comes to title transfers, as sales cannot be finalized until transfers are complete, Bigelow said. As well, “insurers have to move titles very quickly” in instances of loss and theft, another benefit of the clearinghouse.

CHAMP serves as the subcontractor to Tyler for the clearinghouse. The company, founded nearly six years ago, has done previous work with West Virginia — the company’s first government client, Bigelow said — but this project is “orders of magnitude larger than that other work.” CHAMP also works with Tyler in New Jersey and Kentucky, he said.

Tyler started business with West Virginia in 2007 and has worked with more than 160 state agencies. The company, a giant of gov tech, has developed more than 50 digital services for the West Virginia DMV.

Tyler, in fact, helped West Virginia build its digital in-state titling system, which has “eliminated” some 5 million pieces of paper over the last two years, Elizabeth Proudfit, president of the Digital Solutions Division at Tyler, told Government Technology. That work set the stage for the new clearinghouse, which is now onboarding companies.

“I think this is going to be a sprint for the next couple of months,” she said, adding that Tyler “is putting all its bets on the state of West Virginia” for the national clearinghouse and has no plans for similar nationally focused digital title projects in other states.

Right now, the clearinghouse is in the pilot stage, with one company being onboarded, though four more are ready to go, and more than 40 companies want to take part, Everett Frazier, West Virginia’s DMV commissioner, told Government Technology.

The DMV has so far hired and trained 10 employees for the clearinghouse, with more to come, said Frazier, who came from the auto dealership world and worked as director of operations for a GM retailer in West Virginia.

“We’re going to redefine the way titles are done,” he said. “I know the importance of fast turnarounds on titles.”
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.