DMV update: More accountability, more online transactions, with eyes to the cloud

January 25, 2024

By Jeff Kelley,

Article summary:
  • DMV Commissioner eyeing entirely paperless titling process
  • Implemented more accountability and metrics since starting in March 2023
  • Leader driving digital transformation of outdated mainframe; "we're not going to fail"

Virginia DMV Commissioner Gerald Lackey speaks to Virginia dealers at the Dealer Day at the Capitol event on January 24, 2024.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner spoke to Virginia dealers for the second time in the past year and offered an update on progress at the state agency — including future impacts on dealer operations.

Gerald Lackey, Ph.D., who stepped into the role in March 2023, first gave his vision for DMV to dealers at the VADA 2023 Annual Convention in June. Since then, the DMV has launched a new, easier-to-navigate website and has worked to cut costs and improve service for both drivers and dealers.

“We do have expertise, we do have people who are who are passionate about our mission,” he told a group of 50 dealers who came to Richmond on Wednesday for VADA’s Dealer Day at the Capitol. “One of the things that I've come to learn is we just were lacking some of the basic tools that businesses use today. And we're putting those in place.”

When Lackey arrived at DMV, he had no experience in the public sector, and instead a background in business optimization as a McKinsey & Co. consultant and at a global roofing manufacturer (listen to Lackey's July 2023 podcast with VADA).

Lackey said his team has worked with the Virginia Secretary of Transportation to develop “Objectives and Key Results” (OKRs) and accountability measures for DMV. Their goal is to cut costs from the approximately $300 million budget, resolve license issues, and grow online transactions. The $3.7 billion the DMV collects each year goes largely to fund road maintenance and construction.

While the primary role of 2,000-employee DMV is the administration of motor vehicle licenses as well as registration and title laws as outlined in the Code of Virginia, Lackey also presented the DMV’s four-part “Mission Purpose,” a type of mantra most private companies have: Securing identities, Safeguarding lives, Supporting industry partners, and Serving the motoring public.

Online services, including paperless titling

DMV's new website, launched in 2023.

Lackey calls it “the crazy 180.” The DMV handles 160,000 online transactions a week, and he wants to increase that to 180,000. His wants a fully paperless title process for dealers, but noted, “this is not going to be quick.”

His two-part plan to get there includes ending the need for dealers to send paper to DMV. Second, he wants to end wet signatures and move to e-signatures, but has to mount legal hurdles to get there – in particular to avoid fraud.

“We want to make sure that we don't expose anything to fraudulent activity, and make no mistake: One thing I have learned, having never been in the public sector before, is the minute we do something, there's somebody out there trying to take advantage of it,” he said. “And generally, it's organized crime.”

Up to the cloud

Built in 1982, the DMV’s software and hardware mainframe is complex and outdated, and “has a lot of information written in a [coding] language they do not teach at school.” The system is used by multiple state agencies such as the state police, and Lackey admitted the DMV has, over the years, failed four times to create a new system.

“I'm really scared to say this,” he said, “but we're not going to fail this time.”

The DMV is in the process of choosing IT partners through a special RFP process to build it.

“Once we get that up and running, that vision that I have about going completely paperless [will be possible],” he said. “But we really need to be in the cloud to effectively do that.”

Antique car shows coming this summer

In its mission of serving the public (and having some fun), the DMV will host antique car meetups around Virginia this summer.

“We want to get the community passionate about cars again. When [the DMV] started in 1924, the Model T was the most popular car that we were titling then — today, it’s not,” he told dealers. “We want to give you guys the opportunity to come out and participate in that any extent that you would like, either personally or as franchisees.”

Virginia dealers on the steps of the new Virginia General Assembly Building in Richmond at Dealer Day at the Capitol, held January 24, 2024.