By on November 3, 2015

California DMV

A report by published by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) (via WGBH Boston) details that state’s widening private and public systems for road tests by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Prospective drivers may wait hours for an available examiner, or book months in advance — sometimes hundreds of miles away — for their chance at a road test. Or, they could pay hundreds to jump the line, and in some cases, have an examiner come to them.

The story details a growing schism in some places for public tests giving preferential treatment to private businesses because of cash-strapped budgets or over-burdened examiners.

The story detailed one woman, Neşe Lortlar-Ünlü, who said she had booked months in advance a 9 a.m. appointment for a driver’s test, only to wait hours after her appointed time for students who paid for private schooling to jump ahead of her.

“They paid extra money to get (a road test) that day,” Lortlar-Ünlü, a Turkish doctor, told the NECIR. “They did not have to wait like us.”

Massachusetts, like many states, implemented a system roughly 20 years ago to help overburdened motor vehicles offices quickly test more applicants. The system, which added off-hours and weekend testing, allowed private schools to pay for dedicated testers — outside of public availability — to quickly evaluate drivers.

Schools would pay the state $20 per test to cover the cost of the inspector for their own dedicated times.

According to the report, data shows that private schools paid for 26,886 tests in 2010. By 2014, that figure had more than doubled to 55,682 tests.

Private schools in that state can charge nearly $200 for a road test, significantly more than the $35 charged by the state, which can be scheduled more conveniently than a public test.

In 2012, at least 10 states had licensed private schools offering road tests, according to USA Today. In Utah and Oregon, where private schools can administer the road test, costs for a road test vary between $30-$75, depending on whether the student attended driver’s education or is using their own car. In South Carolina, driving tests can cost up to $50 and in Louisiana those costs can go up to $100 for schools that advertise no wait times.

Representatives from several driving schools did not discuss their instruction, prices or testing procedures when contacted.

Families in Massachusetts told the NECIR the extra costs were too much to bear.

“This is clear privileged treatment of those taking the road test through driving schools,’’ Selim Unlu, who is married to Neşe Lortlar-Ünlü, said.

A woman who is skeptical that Massachusetts has a fair system for drivers said the costs were too high.

“For working class families (paying a driving school extra money) is too much” Mary-Ann Knott-Craig told the NECIR. “The time taken off work unpaid, the $35 road test fee, it’s all budgeted for. Paying more is not feasible and frankly, it’s not fair.”

(Photo courtesy Flickr, MSittig)

H/T to David for sending in the story!

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62 Comments on “For Some States, Getting a Driver’s Test Means Paying Big...”


  • avatar
    Tosh

    Welcome to America where money talks and bs walks.
    Wait, no VW stories today?!

  • avatar
    dwford

    Let’s see, is this all a liberal plot to making getting a license so hard and expensive that we just ride the bus, or a conservative plot to make getting a license so hard and expensive that only white people can do it?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Whynotboth.jpg

      It’s a plot by the lizard people to keep us mammalian types down.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It’s progressive fascist cronyism at work. It serves all their purposes at once. It makes driving less accessible, and it puts money in friends of the party’s pockets.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      In states that are making it harder to prove your own eligibility to vote, this would be interpreted as a plot by the GOP. That’s already been said of Alabama shutting down a number of DMV offices in predominantly black areas, and I can see why.

      • 0 avatar
        asapuntz

        State-issued photo ID should probably be free, or as close to free as necessary to avoid significant sources of abuse.

        Driver’s license fees should cover the costs of the licensing system, especially testing costs.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          “Driver’s license fees should cover the costs of the licensing system, especially testing costs.”

          As long as the oppressors mandate some licensing scheme, it should be free. Otherwise it’s just another holdup a-la Federales covering the costs of keeping Baja safe by demanding Marlboro packs in exchange for letting people through roadblocks.

          The particular transgression described in the article, seems an awful lot like those still on the inside of the bureaucracy helping pad the retirement incomes of former colleagues. In a manner similar to how the “traffic school” racket works: Pay my buddy (and me when I retire at 44 with only $200K/yr+Cadillac medical pay by taxpayers), or we’ll make sure your insurance (that we conveniently also mandate) goes up….

          IOW, just another example of government being government, doing the only thing any government has ever done.

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        Can’t you get photo ID there at libraries and other government offices, not just DMVs?

        • 0 avatar
          asapuntz

          as you probably imagine, it depends on the state.

          from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_ID_laws_in_the_United_States

          For example, Pennsylvania drivers, government employees, in-state college students, and residents of elder-care facilities have photo IDs which are considered valid. Others can obtain IDs thru PennDOT, but of the 71 counties, 9 have no licensing center, 9 have them open 1 day/wk, and 13 have them open 2 days/wk. Currently tied up in court …

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      It’s a capitalist plot to simply let private markets self-regulate the cost of driving tests. It’s really neither right nor left, it’s an economic model we allow.

      I refuse to respond to CJ because that man is a satire unto himself.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I heard it was the crabpeople, it is there new agenda…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      1. Make the license process extremely difficult
      2. ???
      3. Profit.

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        Define “difficult.” If it meant more rigor, I’m all for it. Clearly this does not. If anything, the for-profit schools now have a profit motive to pass test takers. Lots of things government shouldn’t be doing, but this makes me uncomfortable the same way for-profit building inspectors or health inspectors would.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          You may have missed the South Park reference but in responding to your point:

          “Prospective drivers may wait hours for an available examiner, or book months in advance — sometimes hundreds of miles away — for their chance at a road test. Or, they could pay hundreds to jump the line, and in some cases, have an examiner come to them.”

          That isn’t rigor, it is incompetence on the part of gov’t and people are paying to get around it.

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MACRA!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    So I see those Turkish folks had a difficult time, if they were in the country illegally would they have gone straight to the front?

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Are there non-working class families?

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    This is why the drive to privatize govt services is so often misguided. Sure, it starts out looking like a win for everyone, but eventually the combination of business greed and conservative desires to shrink govt will result in a system where those with little political voice get shut out.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I’m glad I didn’t have to scroll to the end to make this point myself. The task of letting private companies do road tests isn’t inherently bad or wrong, it’s just broken because there is no competitive nature and the state is really not engaging this issue properly.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    A two-tier system, I don’t go for that.

    But…a license to drive that you’re going to have for probably 75 years…and a couple hundred dollars is too much?

    Then don’t get one – Jesus…

    NO – let’s make it so anyone who can fog a mirror can pass the test, and charge $35 for the license, and then we can all bitch about the lousy drivers out there.

    “Hey, dummy – you get your license at Walmart or something?”

    Yeah – pretty much.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I saw a problem with the Ohio system when I went to get my Ohio license in 5/2013.

      After four or so years of driving on my Indiana license here, it was expiring so I had to go down to the BMV and get me Ohio version.

      Aside from the lady’s miffed face when she asked, “So when did you move to Ohio?” and I replied, “Oh, 2010.”

      There was a Chinese woman in there taking the sign test and a written bit via computer. We started testing the same time. You could only miss two signs out of 20 and a couple questions, IIRC – however there was no time limit. I completed the sign test in a couple minutes (it was easy, honestly) and then the written part in maybe 8 minutes.

      The Chinese woman was STILL on the third or fourth sign question. Certainly she’ll be ready to encounter signs on the open road at highway speed.

      System fail. She’s going to end up killing someone someday, wherever she is.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      But if good paying jobs require a license and most young adults get a license when they’re still minors…..well you see where your logic begins to fall apart?

      You need the money to make the money to get the money you need….

  • avatar
    Garak

    You should see Finnish prices before crying about a couple of hundred of bucks. License for a car? 2000€. For a truck? Add 1500€ extra. That’s socialism for you.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      How is that socialism? I’m trying to work this out. Give me a bone here because all it sounds like is griping over fees that give you a better standard of living than here.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    In other states you can take a driving test at the DMV? In Michigan, for at least the last 15 years (how long I’ve been driving), there was only an option to do your road test with a private company.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    This is why we can’t have nice things left to the free market. Where is Ronnie to come here and defend this concept? I demand he come to the carpet to tell me how the government has corrupted licensing or some other hogwash. I guess he’s too busy washing out his Ayn Rand underroos…

    Anyways, this is clearly a failure of the state to not either appropriately tax the private services (by making it a percentage of what they charge, ideally 60% so that there is a diminishing return to keep raising it) and use that tax gain to employ more public testers. If they wish to push themselves to the front of the line it should benefit all others. Then again, in PA I had no problem scheduling a public road test, I literally walked in, waited in line for maybe 15 minutes and took my test. This is how things should be when your government functions properly and hasn’t been captured by private interests.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Private sector road tests seem to work fine in Michigan. There are 10-15 companies in my area and compete on price. It typically costs $60 or so and you can book online. The failure in Massachusetts is having two different systems. They need to do one or the other.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        It’s not having two different systems, it’s that the public system is clearly underrepresented and the private system has no regulation on it. Confusing problems tends to promoted by ideological bias…

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I have no ideological bias here. I really don’t care how it’s run. It’s obvious that the public system, as currently constructed in MA, cannot compete with the private system on convenience, something people value enough that they are willing to pay more a similar service. Because the state gets kick backs from the private companies, they haven’t invested in their own system. MA needs to get rid of the public testing system and regulate the private companies better, or get rid of the private system and invest more in the state system. Until they do one of those, the issue won’t go away.

          The State of Massachusetts will never be able to compete with these private companies on convenience. Most MA DMV branches are open 9-5 Monday through Friday (or similar). Private companies do road testing on Saturdays, Sundays, and later hours in many states. I took my driving test on a Saturday and my sister took hers on a weekday night.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      What do Ayn Rand and Karl Marx have in common?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        They were both Jewish? Both were in the US at some point in their life? They were both of Caucasian descent? In a weird way they both advocated for the advancement of people but where Marx saw capitalists as the problem Rand saw them as the definitive actor.

        Basically you can agree with marx and still find Capitalism not fully faulty, it tends to make you a Keynesian or neo-marxist.

        For all of Rand’s publicity she has very few actual adherents, the closest economic model associated with her is monetarism and even they don’t really have much of a following outside of the narrow Chicago School.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          All of those things are true except you left out atheism. Yet they hold opposite views. I find this very curious how two people of similar background and genetic descent who lived roughly within one hundred years of each other could be such polar opposites.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            In many ways Rand had an extremely different worldview do to her intellectual identity and success rates. Marx and Engels (and really Engels) did research on industry and attempted to write a new economic model that would be less devastating to people. Rand was a failed screenwriter who found her niche writing against Communists.

            I freely admit I hate Rand but I hate Rand because she has not even a notable philosophy beyond ‘whatever feels good you should do!’ She rejected societal authority and promoted what a child molester and murder did because he wasn’t shackled by society.

            I’m not sure Marx or Socialism qualify as the opposite. In fact, social democracies in Europe are actually ‘more free’ on average than the US. The fact that they tend to level out some of the more aggressive boom and bust cycles has little effect on the value of social control or otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I don’t have a great deal of knowledge on Marx, Engels, and Rand other than knowing the interpretation of Marx/Engels ideas killed tens of millions of people in the Russian Empire, corrupt as it may have been. Granted the world of Marx was around the time of the Industrial Revolution and developing a new economic system is certainly no easy task but I could at least see the need for one given the horrors of the IR. What should be interesting in the 21st Century is the reaction of people when robots become a real part of the economy.

            I also found this amusing:

            http://lordsofthedrinks.com/2014/11/06/karl-marx-the-drunkard-who-laid-the-foundation-for-communism/

            ‘whatever feels good you should do!’

            I realize you are expressing your understanding of her ideas but incidentally there is already a similar and more sinister interpretation.

            “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelema

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Rand wasn’t a deep thinker, her philosophy was superficial in many ways and never could address how to deal with community in a completely objectivist society.

            That being said, I highly doubt Marx would have advocated for the Soviet Union and generally that’s why we call it ‘Leninism’ or ‘Stalinism’ when we refer to it. :)

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    According to the article, Massachusetts only has 39 road examiners. Too many applicants + too few examiners= inflated value of private slots. If MA had shorter wait times, demand for private appointments would be largely limited to “off-times” as originally intended.

    The logical, democratic solution would be to hire more examiners and raise the $35 fee to pay for them. This, of course, would make the standard fee virtually identical to the private fee and deprive citizens of the cheaper $35 option, but then people wouldn’t have to be outraged by people cutting the line.

    My favorite part of the article was:
    “It’s privatizing the public system,’’ said Greg Rundlett of Salisbury, who refused to pay a driving school $75 for a quicker road test time for his son this fall. Instead, he sat online for hours during two consecutive days. The only appointment he could secure was more than a month out in November in Pittsfield, 170 miles from home. “(No one) should have to pay extra to get an appointment.”

    I hope the hours he spent online and 340-mile round trip are worth the $40 he “saved.”

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Nice post. If there are only 39 examiners in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts its time to axe them, save the money, and sell exam licensing to private businesses for the privilege of operating in this capacity.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        How does that make sense? You would have to increase regulations dramatically to make sure that these private driving instructors aren’t acting in violation and then add a layer of bureaucracy to manage them.

        If anything the better answer is to increase the cost of the fee and add more examiners.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I haven’t had to do this in many years but when I got my license it was AAA (IIRC) who provided a training program/test through my high school (and it was the school’s AD who administered it). I do not know how this problem is managed here, but I do know 39 people for an entire state is not enough and adding more creates positions which will not always be utilized but never eliminated either. I’d say whatever PA is doing is something worth looking at in MA and if we must keep 39 civil “servants” than turn them into the new layer of bureaucracy if we must. Technology allows for monitoring to be done be it cameras in the cabin or GPS tracking to determine where the student driver is going (or ensuring they are actually testing).

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            This is all a series of pretty aggressive assumptions.

            We both still have PA licenses (probably from the same place too…). We run 99 separate centers, 67 Counties in total (so 1 per county, Allegheny, Philadelphia, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Westmoreland, Erie, and some others have more).

            The problem is that MA didn’t keep up with demand by employing more officers and since they make no attempt to regulate these private groups but receive a free win-fall they’re turning a blind eye to the situation. It’s problematic in the simple way that the state is failing its people and privatizing it isn’t an effective answer.

            Clearly they could up the number of examiners and resolve this. But this is back to Rand and Marx, isn’t it? My worldview vs. your’s? At least we’re not strawmanning each other. :)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You’re right in that may assumptions are being made and I for one do not understand how the system in PA works regarding private instructors.

            I responded in the earlier thread, but I don’t see the previous argument I made as being collectivist vs individualist. If MA or PA or any other state can pay for its instructors with fees then sure, but if it cannot the remainder is a net loss to the DOT budget. If you figure 39 employees conservatively at 70K cost inc benefits per person, its 2.73m per year to employ those people. Now this figure could be offset by the fees they generate, but if I had to guess they will not make up the full amount. In an era when state budgets are squeezed by Medicaid expansion they cannot afford and pension costs coming due for retired boomers, cutting costs might not be a bad idea if a better solution can be found.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          They could go ask another state how they do it. It’s not like having private companies administer driving test is new. Heck, MA already deals with these private companies now. I’m not saying it’s the right answer, but it’s not like this is a new idea.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          Why would you think the government employees aren’t acting in violation? Maybe on your planet the DMVs are simon pure and efficient to boot, but here on Earth, that’s not so. Inmy state, Rhode Island, there was a big stink a while back over DMV employees who where illegally expediting licenses for a very healthy bribe. The fee included a “waiver” of both written and road tests. Very popular with the illegal immigrant population.
          Add a layer of bureaucracy? Why? Fire all the senior paper shufflers and put the companies under the oversight of a professional licensure board. If the state’s various licensure boards can license engineers, lawyers, doctors, contractors, plumbers, electricians, manicurists and hairdressers, they can find an existing one that can handle driving schools too.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          The fee does not need to be increased. If there are more examiners, there are more tests being performed, and more total revenue to cover the costs.
          This is an artificially created shortage so that gouging of the public can take place. The government exists to provide services to the public. The governor should address this problem… that’s where the buck stops (and probably, many bucks).
          Isn’t it ironic that if you can not get an appointment to get a license, you can be heavily fined for driving without a license?!

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      “I hope the hours he spent online and 340-mile round trip are worth the $40 he ‘saved.\'”

      It’s expensive to be poor.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    What prevents a private exam provider from becoming a diploma mill – beyond ethics?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      That’s about it. In Michigan they are supposed to follow a certain curriculum, teach each student a certain number of driving hours, and proctor a driving test with state mandated items. However, I don’t know how the state audits those private companies. Remember, a jaded DMV employee could rubber stamp stuff too.

      I know a lot of friends did their driving test with a specific lady because she was supposedly lenient.

  • avatar
    zip89105

    The biggest scam ‘payment’ is the 3 or more hours of ones life wasted standing in line for a 5 minute transaction, meanwhile DL’s are handed out like Halloween candy to illegal aliens who can’t speak a word of English.

  • avatar
    George B

    My concern with the Massachusetts semi-private system is the incentive for people administering the test to provide a passing result for their best customers. It would be better if driving tests were completely separate from payment for driving instruction.

    My girlfriend’s daughters have both been through private driver ed courses in recent years here in Plano, TX. The school does a good job, but I’m glad the grandparents paid for it. The process also requires homework in the form the student practicing driving with a parent. Interesting to watch teenage driving skills improve from horrible to not bad with several months of practice.

    Driving tests are administered by the state and are completely separate from driver education here in Texas. Driving tests are scheduled online and teens try to schedule the test on their 16th birthday. http://www.dps.texas.gov/administration/driver_licensing_control/Rolodex/scheduleDriveTest.htm The new Driver License Mega Centers have a system where you can get in line online and show up when you get a text alert. http://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/getinlinebeforeyougo.htm


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