By Candy Thomson, The Baltimore Sun
6:56 PM EDT, September 25, 2012
Drivers across Maryland had trouble renewing their licenses Monday and Tuesday because of a computer glitch at the Motor Vehicle Administration.
Technicians updating the system last weekend to reflect changes in state laws that take effect Oct. 1 noticed that "something didn't quite click" on Monday morning when offices opened for business, said MVA spokeswoman Caryn Coyle.
Computer systems at some of the 24 branches that reported "sporadic problems" were taken off line and rebooted, she said. But when problems persisted on Tuesday, technicians decided to shut down the entire system and reboot each branch.
The problems also affected the MVA eStore and the central scheduling system, the two functions that handle payment and test scheduling.
Service was restored by midday Tuesday to six of the busiest branches, including Glen Burnie and Beltsville, with the remainder back online by 3 p.m. People with expiring licenses who were turned away for service can ask a branch manager for a 15-day extension, Coyle said.
The MVA has an internal team of technicians, an IBM support vendor and a subcontractor to care for the decade-old system.
One of the biggest changes coming next week is the requirement that moped and scooter riders obtain a sticker from the MVA certifying that it has been titled. In addition, riders must carry proof of insurance, wear helmets and either wear goggles or install wind screens on their bikes.
"We did a thorough testing of the new software, but problems crop up in the real world," said MVA Administrator John Kuo.
Maryland has 4.5 million licensed drivers and another 500,000 residents with state-issued identification cards.
Joseph Haley, a Johns Hopkins University graduate student who waited for two days at the city branch on Reisterstown Road to renew his license, said the most frustrating part of the problem was that MVA employees lacked information.
"They had the least enviable job," he said. "There were literally hundreds of people who didn't know what was going on and how long they should wait, and there was no one to help them."
Kuo said branch managers were kept up to date and to the best of his knowledge, information was distributed.
To get answers Haley said he finally went online and found a pdf file that instructs MVA employees on how to get help for a computer problem. He called a phone number for the subcontractor and talked to an employee.
"I had a smartphone," he laughed. "And a lot of time on my hands."
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