Jul 19, 2023 - News

DMV to put self-service kiosks in grocery stores to speed up lines

North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles

East Charlotte Driver License Office on a Wednesday morning. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

As part of a wave of recent changes to cut office wait times, North Carolina’s Division of Motor Vehicles is placing kiosks in grocery stores this fall.

Why it matters: There’s been a dash to the DMV office in recent years. By May 2025, Americans need a REAL ID — which you must obtain in person from the DMV — to board a plane. Plus, the state Supreme Court recently ruled that North Carolinians will need a photo ID to vote in the 2023 election.

  • But getting a license can be a day’s work, especially if the service you need requires an in-person visit.
  • As of Tuesday, the next appointment at one of the four Charlotte offices wasn’t available until October.

Yes, but: DMV Commissioner Wayne Goodwin tells Axios part of the problem is that customers who could complete their tasks online are filling waiting rooms.

  • In some cases, customers must appear in person, including if they’re new drivers or new state residents.

Details: The DMV will begin by deploying 20 kiosks in grocery stores and military bases around the state. They’ll predominantly be stationed in Mecklenburg and Wake counties, along with a few other metro areas, Goodwin says. The commissioner is aiming to expand to more than 100 kiosks statewide within a year and a half after the initial rollout.

  • The locations have yet to be announced.
  • The kiosks will have a to-be-determined fee. The fee for the online service is $3.

Like a lottery machine you’d see at your local grocery store, the self-service kiosks will be vertical devices with touchscreens, near the checkout. They’ll be an alternative for those who can’t or don’t want to complete services online.

  • “It’s not the only solution for reducing lines and wait times, but it is a new tool in the toolbox for us to do that,” Goodwin says.

The big picture: Goodwin says demand at the DMV is up as North Carolina’s population quickly grows. Approximately 113 people moved to the Charlotte region every day from mid-2021 to mid-2022. It’s triggered a need for expanded options at the DMV. The division is also attempting to make up for staffing shortages.

  • “Charlotte is certainly a ground zero for deploying the DMV kiosks,” Goodwin says, “because that’s where the greatest demand has been and where the greatest challenges exist with filling vacancies at DMV offices.”
  • Goodwin suspects Charlotte’s cost of living has impacted the department’s ability to find workers. A DMV examiners’ starting salary is around $40,000.
  • In April, Huntersville’s office was only 34% staffed.

Other recent changes:

  • Exclusive appointment hours: As of May 1, all DMV appointments take place in the morning. Walk-ins are only from noon until closing.
  • Earlier opening: This summer, the DMV extended hours at 40 offices. Many open now at 7am instead of 8am.
  • Saturday hours: From June 3 through August 26, 16 of the busiest locations are open for walk-ins on Saturdays from 8am to noon. Those sites include North Charlotte (University City), South Charlotte and Huntersville.
  • Hold your spot via smartphone: As of last summer, DMV customers can now scan a QR code at locations to hold their place in line. They can then leave the DMV and will get a notification when it’s time to return to the lobby to be helped.
  • Email reminders: When people complete a service online, they can opt into emails for reminders, like when it’s time to renew their licenses.
  • View wait times online: MyNCDMV.gov now shows approximate walk-in wait times at office locations.
  • Tuesday afternoon, the average wait time from check in was 50 minutes at the East Charlotte office and 30 minutes at South Charlotte, according to the website.
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