(Memphis) Empty chairs and even smiling faces are a new sight at Shelby County Driver Service Centers.
When we checked, most people waited less than 15 minutes.
It was almost hard to remember three months ago at the Shelby Drive location, people waited nearly 1 hour just to get a ticket to wait up to another two hours to be seen.
The wait was even worse at the Hickory Ridge Mall location which WREG found had the worst wait time in the entire state.
It got so bad in February, people who waited in line since 7 a.m. nearly started a small riot when they were told to leave and come back the next day.
Protective gates were closed to prevent customers from rushing the center.
The state then opened the center, which specializes in suspended licenses, to open for five Saturdays to alleviate the crowds.
The wait time now at Hickory Ridge averages 20 minutes and at the Shelby Drive location it was 12 minutes.
Demarcus Williams waited even less time, “I sat down and filled out my paperwork. Next thing I know, I’m out of here.”
It appears Department of Public Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons made good on a promise to WREG after we uncovered an audit that showed the outrageous wait times.
At the time, Gibbons said the long waits were due to high volume, a 30-year-old computer system and poor training.
However, after our stories highlighted empty counter after empty counter, the state realized the biggest problem was there were not enough employees.
An internal investigation showed 17 empty positions at the four centers in Shelby County.
Gibbons told us, “We have hired all the new members of the new team, so we have a fuller staff. We hired 10 overlap examiner positions so we were able to get customers in and out in a timely fashion.”
With the back up cleared, Shelby Drive Center workers helped 2000 more people in April than March.
District Manager Kendra White told us the added personnel made all the difference, “Examiners are happy, customers are happy. It’s a different feel in the driver services center.”
While Commissioner Gibbons thanked WREG for bringing the problem to his attention, employees and customers are thankful he listened and steered the driver service centers in the right direction.
More changes are on the way starting July 1.
On a pilot basis, you can join a virtual line from the internet or your smart phone.
You can also call a toll-free number from a cell phone to get a specific time to visit the center, with little to no wait.