The average wait time at driver service centers in the state of Tennessee for the first quarter of 2013 was nearly 32 minutes, which is up six minutes from the last quarter of 2012.
These figures, released by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Wednesday, also show that the number of statewide transactions increased to 327,114 in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 295,444 in the last quarter of last year.
But the wait time for the first quarter of 2013 is slightly lower than the average wait time for last year's first quarter, when the average was closer to 33 minutes.
"We are committed to reducing wait times at our driver service centers," Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in a prepared statement. "We are concerned about the uptick in wait times, especially after making such great progress in the last three months of 2012. But we are taking proactive steps to help reverse this trend and help create a more satisfying experience for our customers."
Gibbons also said that the increase was because of an increase in handgun permit applications, vacant management positions at several driver service centers and equipment failures.
In the month of March alone, the department received almost 17,000 handgun carry permit applications, more than double the number received in March 2012.
The Department of Safety and Homeland Security is installing new equipment and software at all centers to begin a new process for issuing drivers' licenses. This process will ultimately help reduce wait times, but the new equipment has failed at some centers, which has caused problems. Officials said the issue is being addressed with both the staff and the vendor.
The Driver Services Division will hire additional part-time employees in July to help at the centers during peak hours. The funding for these positions was appropriated by Gov. Bill Haslam's recently passed budget. The department also plans to launch a marketing campaign to help increase public awareness about alternate locations and ways to renew drivers' licenses.