The Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle (DMV) division is currently facing a hiring shortage of nearly 20 percent statewide, causing extended wait times statewide and even forcing smaller offices to shutter when the few remaining employees call out.
DMV spokesperson David House told the Mercury that the shortage is caused by an increase in departing employees and a decrease in applicants. Last year, through retirement, resignation, internal job changes, and other instances, the DMV field offices lost 89 employees. Four months into 2022, the DMV has already lost another 77 employees.
“We’re recruiting, hiring and training as quickly as we can, but the challenge is a shortage of sufficient applicants,” House said.
Of the 478 field office jobs that the Oregon DMV provides across the state, the Oregon Department of Transportation agency recorded 95 vacancies in April—63 more vacancies than the DMV saw in April last year, and 90 more than it saw in April of 2019.
“Ninety-five vacancies is a big proportion [of the DMV staff],” House said.
Staffing shortages are even worse in the Portland metro area. The DMV’s Mount Hood and Sunset region offices in Portland, Beaverton, Gresham, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Sandy, Gladstone, St. Helens and Sherwood are down by a combined 41 employees—a deficit of 25 percent.
House said that Portland’s metro offices have remained open through the shortage thanks to larger staff sizes and the ability to shuffle workers between offices as needed. However, Oregon’s rural offices have fewer options.
“DMV, like so many employers, has been experiencing a staff shortage the past few months,” he said. “We have not been able to hire and train as fast as we lose people to retirement or just changing jobs. In fact, almost every day now we have to close at least one of the smaller offices where there is no backup available—because nearby offices are understaffed.”
On Monday, offices in Brookings and Stayton both unexpectedly closed for the day after there weren’t enough employees to keep the lights on.
“Brookings normally has two employees, and one position is vacant, and the one employee is not available,” House said on Monday. “We don’t have backup to send from any other office.”
The ongoing worker shortage has also added to the DMV’s notoriously long wait times. Last month, the DMV’s “Mt. Hood Region,” which includes Multnomah and Clackamas counties, saw an average wait time of 71 minutes—nearly twice the wait customers experienced in 2018. Of these offices, Gresham suffered the longest DMV wait times, with an average wait of 107 minutes. Beaverton customers saw the second longest lines in the metro area, with an average wait of 49 minutes.
As a solution, the DMV is advising customers to avoid its meagerly staffed offices by conducting business through the Oregon DMV website, if possible. The DMV also recommends that customers requiring driving tests use third-party testers from its approved list.
“To help customers, we are again ramping up our recommendation to go online first anytime you need a DMV service at DMV2U.Oregon.gov,” House said. “If you need a service that must be done in person, visit OregonDMV.com to make sure you have what you need. Appointments are not required but can be made at DMV2U.”
Job seekers can apply to the Oregon DMV through the Oregon jobs website. Unlike TriMet, which is also significantly understaffed, the Oregon DMV is unable to offer sign up bonuses or increased pay without approval from the state legislature. However, the DMV has a wide variety of openings across the state, and positions aren’t limited to the Portland metro area.
“Although ODOT has staff shortages in other areas too, our recruiters are working extra hard on DMV positions all over the state for most of our 60 offices,” House said. “It’s a difficult situation for staff and customers.”