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2024 Montana Primary elections

High Demand Means Delays For Driver’s License, Title Services

Real ID vs. standard driver's license

Montanans face waits of nearly two months to get appointments to renew their driver's licenses or to title and register their vehicles. 

The state agency in charge of those and other transactions says it’s working to improve its customer service.

Laurie Bakri, Montana’s Motor Vehicle Division chief says demand for the agency’s services is through the roof.

“We are extremely busy.”

Bakri says some of the agency’s 48 satellite-offices scattered throughout Montana are now routinely booked anywhere from 20-50 days in advance.

“A large station can see 100-120 appointments a day, and then adding in walk-ins as available; just one appointment after the next.”

Bakri says a variety of factors contributed to the backlog. The pandemic forced the agency to reconfigure its services, which resulted in fewer available appointments.

“The other thing that I think may be related to the pandemic, but we have a significant number of inbound, out-of-state people coming to live in Montana. Our out-of-state driver’s license transfers are increasing and they are longer appointments.”

A looming deadline for REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses also drove the backlog.

“People were looking to get REAL ID, they were coming in very frequently and those appointments take longer,” Bakri says.

The federal Department of Homeland Security recently extended the REAL ID deadline to May of 2023. 

Montana’s Motor Vehicle Division is introducing mobile units to help Montanans get their renewals or new licenses on a walkup basis. Two such units are now serving Red Lodge and Stevensville. 

Bakri says Montana’s Motor Vehicle Division is actively working to reduce those waits of 20-50 days for appointments.

Extended traditional office hours are now available on certain days in some communities. A new MVD Express, which can offer driver and vehicle services, is now operating in Missoula.

“So if I make an appointment two weeks out, I think that would be a good goal for us. It’s a stretch, but we would like to get there,” Bakri says.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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