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Year 2 for “One Sticker”

Surely this year will go more smoothly.

Texas dropped its familiar green safety inspection sticker a year ago, creating confusion for millions of vehicle and trailer owners in the state. Though inspections didn’t change – but might soon, as some lawmakers want to scrap them – the stickers went away as the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles shifted to a database system to verify compliance with state rules.

Though this year’s crop of registrations is not expected to result in the confusion and computer problems that plagued the process last year, some people may forget the new rules.

“I think we could have some confusion and the reason I say that is we have taken a decades-old process and kind of changed it,” said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan, whose office handles vehicle registration.

[…]

Last year, owners of the roughly 17 million registered personal vehicles and trailers in Texas were able to renew, provided their inspection was current and valid. In other words, someone who renewed in March, and whose registration expired in April, did not have to undergo an inspection.

Now inspections and registration are closely tied. Lawmakers changed the rules in 2013, effective last year, requiring drivers to pass inspection within 90 days of renewing the vehicle registration.

Inspection results are uploaded into a state database, though officials suggest keeping the paper copy of the inspection report that stations and mechanics are required to provide after a vehicle passes inspection.

Sullivan said it is possible vehicle owners could start showing up without inspections because many didn’t need to conduct one last year. It’s also possible some drivers erred in the past 12 months. Someone whose car was inspected when its sticker expired in November will run afoul of the 90-day requirement if they try to renew their registration in April.

See here and here for some background. Ideally, this year people will understand the need to do their inspections around the time of their registration renewals, and there won’t be any technical glitches. Perhaps some periodic reminders about what is needed would be helpful. What has your experience with the new system been so far?

Vehicle registration renewal error notice

The following is a public service announcement. From the inbox:

320,000 Texas Drivers Receive Error in Renewal Notice
Mike Sullivan wants to ensure Harris County drivers are aware of issue

Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan wants to ensure Harris County drivers are aware of the issue concerning their vehicle registration notice.

According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, two million vehicle registration renewal notices were mailed to customers on March 2, 2015 for their April renewals. From those notices, around 320,000 were printed with an incorrect inspection fee of $0.00 when a fee should have been printed. This only affects a select number of the April renewals.

“We don’t know how many Harris County drivers have been affected by this error, but my office is currently investigating the issue with the support of TxDMV staff,” said Mike Sullivan.

Affected drivers will receive a correct vehicle registration renewal and a notice in the mail from the TxDMV stating:

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Dear Customer: Please use the enclosed registration renewal notice when renewing your vehicle registration. The notice we sent to you earlier this month was printed with an incorrect fee and should be discarded. You are receiving a corrected renewal notice that displays the fee amount that is actually owed. You may disregard this notice if you have already received your registration sticker. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you have questions, please contact 1-888-DMV-GOTX (1-888-368-4689).

“If you have received your April vehicle registration renewal notice and have concerns if it is correct, please contact the TxDMV at 1-888-DMV-GOTX (1-888-368-4689),” said Mr. Sullivan.

If you have any questions please contact the Office of Mike Sullivan at (713)274-8000 or by email at [email protected]

A brief Chron story on this is here. This has been a public service announcement. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

One sticker for all has begun

Hope it wasn’t too confusing for you if you had to deal with it this week.

On Monday – the first full day under the new system for registering cars, trucks, trailers and motorcycles in Texas – drivers trying to abide by the new law faced frustration as misunderstandings and a computer glitch led to overcharges for some motorists.

The confusion stemmed mostly from new rules about how certain fees are collected. Under the old two-sticker system, car owners in the Houston area paid a flat fee of $39.75 for an inspection sticker – $25.50 to the inspection station and a $14.25 clean air fee the inspection station collected and forwarded to the state.

Under the new system, which went into effect Sunday, motorists are required to pay the inspection station only its $25.50. The clean air fee now is added to the cost of registering the vehicle.

And therein lay the problem.

On Monday, many motorists who showed up at one of the 16 Harris County offices where owners can register vehicles reported they had been charged the $14.25 clean air fee twice. Similar problems were being reported in other counties.

“Things are not going well in a lot of places,” said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan, whose office is in charge of vehicle registration.

Monday was the first day tax collectors and motorists had to deal with the changes, and state officials relied on a computer database to link inspection and registration information.

State officials offered a more sanguine assessment of how the switch went on its first day.

“Overall, the system is performing as expected,” said Adam Shaivitz, spokesman for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. “A majority of inspections were verified electronically at the time of vehicle registration.”

But not well enough, apparently, to avoid frustration here and elsewhere in the state where similar problems were being encountered.

One of our cars was inspected and registered as of January, so it was all under the old system. The other has been registered, but its inspection expires this month. My understanding of how this works is that we’ll get it inspected as before, and then next year both cars will be under the new system. I presume all the bugs will have been worked out by then. Educating the public is always the hard part of this kind of change. You may have seen some billboards around town advertising the switchover – see here for more about them – or you can visit OneSticker.net for more about how things work now. Anyone got a story to tell? Dallas Transportation has more.

Sticker reduction coming

From the inbox:

Harris County is gearing up for a new Texas Two Step. Beginning March 1, 2015, the state will no longer issue vehicle inspection stickers and will move to a “Two Steps, One Sticker” program. Under the new system, Texas vehicle owners will need to pass inspection prior to renewing their registration. The familiar blue-bordered Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) registration sticker will serve as proof of both inspection and registration.

“We are prepared to make this transition as smooth as possible for our residents,” said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan. “During the first year of the program beginning March 1, 2015, all you will need to do is make sure you already have a valid passing vehicle inspection before you renew your registration in our office, online or by mail.”

When vehicle owners renew their registration, the system will verify whether the vehicle has a valid inspection. It’s recommended to bring the hard copy of the vehicle inspection report when renewing your registration. Without a passing inspection, the vehicle will not be eligible for registration renewal.

During the second year of the program, beginning March 1, 2016, vehicles’ inspection and registration expiration dates will align to the date that is on the registration sticker. Once the expiration dates are aligned in that second year, you will have a convenient 90-day window to pass inspection first and then renew your registration before the end of the month listed on your sticker.

“When the ‘Two Steps, One Sticker’ program is fully implemented, Harris County residents will appreciate having just one sticker in the corner of their windshield and only one expiration date to worry about,” said TxDMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster. “And because a passing vehicle inspection will be a requirement to renew your registration, more vehicle owners will comply with inspection requirements leading to safer and more environmentally sound cars on Texas roads.”

The implementation of “Two Steps, One Sticker” is a result of House Bill 2305 which passed during the 83rd Legislative Session in 2013. The program is joint effort by the TxDMV, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, in collaboration with the 254 county tax assessor-collector’s offices which process vehicle registrations and vehicle inspection stations across the state.

For more information:
www.TwoStepsOneSticker.com

The Harris County Tax Office Automobile Division performs more than 4.5 million automobile transactions in Harris County each year. It also works closely with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to register motor vehicles, collect registration and title fees and distributes them to the proper entities. Learn more about the Automobile Services Division by visiting www.hctax.net.

See here and here for the background. I think this is a good idea, but I also expect there will be some confusion along the way. At the very least, having only one date to worry about instead of two, especially if you have more than one car at your household, will be nice.

Get ready to go inspection sticker-free

Things are gonna be different next year.

Texas drivers will have a little less clutter on their windshield next year when the familiar green inspection sticker goes away, but it comes at the price of requiring inspections in order to renew vehicle registrations.

As of March 2015, vehicles registered in Texas will no longer need separate vehicle inspection and registration stickers. Inspections and registrations will continue, but the single registration sticker will act as proof of both, Texas DMV director Whitney Brewster told a state senate committee on Monday. The deadline for passing state vehicle safety and emissions tests shifts to sometime in the 90 days before the vehicle’s registration expires.

“This is a big impact on customers,” Brewster told state senators, citing the need for an aggressive public awareness campaign.

[…]

The rules and costs for vehicle owners do not change, though when the payments occur will. Owners in the Houston area will pay the station $25.50 when the inspection is done. The remaining $14.25 associated with Texas clean air programs and inspection oversight is paid when the person renews the vehicle registration.

The owner will get a printout when they submit for the inspection, then that information is relayed into the state database. The owner can go online prior to their registration expiring and renew. Officials can check the insurance and inspection databases for the information and issue the registration renewal.

For in-person renewals, the owner can take the proper insurance and inspection certificates and present them to the county tax assessor.

The change means a break from annual inspections for some drivers, because of the timing for inspections and registrations expiring. If someone’s registration expires in May and their inspection tag expires in June, for example, they will not have to get their car tested until prior to renewing their registration in May 2016.

See here for the background. This is the result of a bill passed last year by the Lege, and the idea is to cut down on inspection fraud. It will be a big change for pretty much everyone, so that public awareness campaign does need to be aggressive and pervasive. For now, be aware that a change is coming, and be prepared to look for the new procedures next year when inspection and registration time roll around.

No more inspection stickers

That’s the plan, and I think it makes a lot of sense.

Texas’ vehicle inspection stickers would become a thing of the past under legislation approved unanimously Monday by the state Senate.

But there’s a catch: Vehicles still would have to be inspected before they could be registered with the state, and diesel vehicles would, for the first time, have to pass an emissions test.

“Technology allows Texas to move away from vehicle inspection stickers, so we can combine the inspection with the registration,” said state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, the author of Senate Bill 1350.

Twenty-seven other states already use a single-sticker system, Department of Public Safety officials said Monday.

“It will mean there will be one registration sticker on your windshield, instead of that sticker and an inspection sticker. That’s one less sticker on your windshield that you can get a ticket for,” West said. “It’s about less stickers, less government.”

A study by DPS and the state Department of Motor Vehicles showed that the switch would reduce fraud, which has plagued the vehicle inspection system for years.

Here’s SB 1350, which still has to pass the House. The fraud issue is bigger and more extensive than you might think. By eliminating stickers and tying inspections to your vehicle registration, this would mean no more sticker stealing, and no more “surrogate” vehicles being inspected on behalf of some other car. I’m sure there will still be ways to cheat the system, but this is a step in the right direction. Plus, emissions testing for diesel vehicles is something we should have been doing for years. Good idea, good bill, let’s hope the House passes it.