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Friday, November 26, 2021

Slow pace of reopening of MN Driving License exam stations, complaints pile up

State lawmakers, bus drivers, trucking groups and local elected officials on Friday pressured the Minnesota Division of Driver and Vehicle Services to accelerate efforts to reopen driver’s license test stations across the state.

The calls came after all exam stations were closed in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shook the state, and more than two dozen have reopened so far. In the interim, Minnesotans have faced significant wait times, long travel times and limited service offerings from test stations.

This hit to available services has been particularly profound in Greater Minnesota communities, where regional stations are yet to reopen. In June state lawmakers wrote into law a requirement that test stations reopen and invest more than $5 million for faster transitions.

As of Friday, only a third had reopened. And DVS chiefs said difficulties in fixing rents and leases for examination buildings were slowing down the process.

“Even before the pandemic, our customers in greater Minnesota had to travel significant distances to get services from these test stations,” said DVS director Pong Jeong, “and with the consolidation of test stations through the pandemic , it only increases that distance.

Xiong, who had recently moved into his role with the division, said the state is to reopen 31 stations by the end of November, 41 by the end of December and all of the 93 stations already available by the end of January. was on the track.

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“We are fully committed to opening 100% of our test centers as soon as possible,” Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington told the Senate Transportation Committee on Friday. The department oversees DVS.

Spokesmen for trucking groups and haulers said they had been waiting for days to renew their licenses because of the closures and had lost time and resources as a result.

“It’s impossible to plan for a load when you don’t know how long a driver will be held for an exam,” said Trent Morrell, Morrell Transfer president. “DVS needs to prioritize CDL exams and road tests to move up the supply chain.”

A spokesperson for a state school bus driver group said the industry struggled to convince applicants to go through the application process when they learned they would have to drive an hour or more to an exam station. And Freeborn County Commissioner Ted Herman said his constituents who experienced “real heartache” had to drive to Rochester or elsewhere for knowledge or a road test.

Senate panel lawmakers urged DVS officials to consider working with the private sector to quickly bring exam services online.

“I have no doubt that you are working hard on this, I believe. I really do,” Scott Newman, the chairman of the committee, R-Hutchinson, told DVS leaders. “But this is a very important problem for you to solve and perhaps the private sector will be a way for us to help the people of Minnesota.”

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