The Tennessee Star Report: What’s Wrong With the Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles?


Host Michael Patrick Leahy told listeners what’s wrong with Tennessee’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.

During the third hour, Leahy gave a description of his recent experience at the DMV stating that it took him over three hours to renew his license and took a call from James who described his recent experience.

Leahy: But on a personal note and point of personal privilege, I started talking about my experience yesterday. It took me three hours to get my license renewed. And Katie, our producer who just moved here to Tennessee from North Dakota was laughing uproariously when I was telling this story. Because Katie, it took me three hours. I understand you just recently got a Tennessee driver’s license. Is that right?

Katie: Yes that’s correct.

Leahy: And how long did it take you? It took me three hours.

Katie: I took me and my husband three and a half hours.

Leahy: Three and a half hours! Goodness, gracious. Just as a point of comparison. When you were in North Dakota, how long did it take you to get your driver’s license in North Dakota?

Katie: I think at the most. One hour, an hour and a half.

Leahy: So North Dakota is doing a lot better than we are. By the way, you don’t know this Kate, but I will tell you the Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum is somebody I know. We were at business school together at the same time, and he was a year ahead of me at Stanford. A good guy and a very successful guy. You probably know Doug Burgum there right?

Katie: Heard of him.

Leahy: He did very very well, and he has a pretty good reputation. One of the things he apparently does better than Governor Bill Lee (chuckles) is handling driver’s licenses. So I’ve told my war story, Katie. Tell us if you will Katie, tell us your experience of three and a half hours of getting your driver’s license. Oh my goodness.

Katie: Well, the first time we had to go register our vehicles. And that to me was something different. Because usually, we did it in the same place where you got your driver’s license.

Leahy: That would be efficient wouldn’t it, to do the same thing at the same place.

Katie: You would think it would be a little bit more efficient but you can’t be too easy apparently. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: OK. Keep rolling here.

Katie: From there, obviously we didn’t have all our documents together that we needed.

Leahy: Oh, so you had the same problem that I had.

Katie: Exactly.

Leahy: You did not have your documents lined up! So you arrived to get your driver’s license. When did you learn that you needed these documents?

Katie: When we were told that we needed to pick up the paper out on the front desk. Because we came with our North Dakota driver’s licenses. I was aware I needed my marriage license. I have my social card on me. But  I wasn’t aware that we needed a bill and anything else.

Leahy: Did you just walk up, and they told you that? Nobody told me that. I was just sitting there for an hour and forty minutes until somebody out of the goodness of their heart texted me and asked me where are your documents?

Katie: I saw other people going up and asking.

Leahy: So you had the same problem!

Katie: They don’t make it very aware. It was just a little sheet of paper that said hey, this is the stuff you need. And they were like, hey, you could have looked it up on our website too. And I was like, oh, that would have been nice to know.

Leahy: So Katie you come from North Dakota where they have a lot of common sense, right?  So common sense would say, when you walk into the DMV they ought to have a little welcome sign that says, did you bring your documents? Because if you don’t you’re going to waste an hour or an hour and forty minutes of just waiting and not knowing what exactly you need to do. That would make some sense, wouldn’t it? Yeah, I think it would. (Leahy asks listeners to call in with their DMV stories)

(Commercial break)

Leahy: So Katie, our producer in the past couple of weeks, it took her three and a half hours to get her driver’s license coming from North Dakota. The average so far is three hours and fifteen minutes to get your driver’s license in Tennessee one year and a month into Governor Bill Lee’s administration. We now are going to James on the line from Mt. Juliet who wants to talk about his experience getting a driver’s license here in Tennessee.  Good morning James.

Caller James: Hi, how are you, sir?

Leahy: Well, I’m glad James that I’m no longer waiting in that hurricane evacuation center that is also known as the department of motor vehicles licensing center. (Chuckles)

Caller James: It took me two tries to go there. And I still don’t have a license.

Leahy: (Laughs) Are you kidding me?

Caller James: I didn’t have all the documentation which seems to include the serial number off the back of the seat belts and the car and all that. I was a military brat, so I was born in Germany. So my birth certificate is German. So they look at that and say, and they are like, do you have anything else?

I’m like no, this is 1957. This is a piece of paper with German writing on it and a signature on the bottom. The next thing was that they wanted the passport and naturalization papers. So I have naturalization paper is no good now because you have a passport but the problem with your passport is that your passport is expired.

Leahy: (Chuckles) James, hold on. Let’s walk us through the beginning. When and where did you go? Did you have a Tennessee driver’s license? Have you lived here for a while? What kind of license did you have?

Caller James: It was just a normal driver’s license.

Leahy: From what state?

Caller James: From Florida.

Leahy: You had a Florida driver’s license. When did you move to Tennessee?

Caller James: A year and a half ago.

Leahy: OK. So you have a Florida driver’s license and you want to get a Tennessee driver’s license. When did you go in? And which county did you go into to get your driver’s license renewed?

Caller James: This is in Mt. Juliet. It was a year and a half ago. I came in because I wanted to get rid of those Florida tags as quickly as I could off of the car and get the driver’s license. So we got the plates, we got that, but no driver’s license because I didn’t have enough documentation. But the guy next to me who spoke a lot of Spanish he got one everything right away.

Leahy: (Scoffs) Well. Good for him. Do you have a current Tennessee driver’s license?

Caller James: No. I still don’t. I don’t have a US birth certificate. They’re like, no we can’t really accept this because the passport overrides that. The passport is expired. And I have a social security card.

Leahy: So let me ask you, James. Do you currently have a valid Florida driver’s license? And when does that expire?

Caller James: In two years.

Leahy: OK. So you are legal. That’s good.

Caller James: Yeah.

Leahy: So what is your plan to get a Tennessee driver’s license?

Caller James: Well, it’s to get that piece of paper that you don’t realize that you need with all the stuff on it that you need. But I just don’t know where else to go with it. And even the people, they were very friendly even though it took a very long time to get up there. It just seems like I’m an illegal now.

Leahy: Can I make a suggestion to you?

Caller James: Yes, sir.

Leahy: What I would do is there are state legislators here in Wilson County. It’s a state legislator who you want to talk to. And they do constituent services. Do you know who your state House and Senators are?

Caller James: No sir. I’m sorry.

Leahy: OK. Well look that up, I think that you might find your state senator there is probably Mark Pody. You can go to the offices. Just go into their offices and say look, I’m a constituent and I have this problem and I wonder if you could help me. Why don’t you do that and then maybe you could come back and report to us. How does that sound?

Caller James: That’s sounds great.

Leahy: We’re rooting for you man! We’re rooting for you!

Caller James: Thank you very much. (Laughter)

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Tennessee DMV” by the Tennessee Department of Safety.




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