Massachusetts Registry, AAA May Join on License Renewals

By | March 13, 2009

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is close to an agreement with AAA that gives the auto club’s 2.3 million members a chance to renew licenses and vehicle registrations at no extra charge — even on Saturdays — at the AAA offices.

It may be consumer friendly, but the program, which could be rolled out next month in AAA’s West Newton and Worcester branches, does not sit well with the union representing 800 Registry employees.

The union, the Quincy-based National Association of Government Employees, is concerned the program could lead to outsourcing jobs while giving AAA employees access to personal information such as Social Security numbers.

“I’ve been around state government for four decades, but this is the first piece of legislation designed to help one corporation,” union president David Holway said. “If they wanted to serve the public in an efficient manner, they would have put out a request for proposals, not cut a backroom deal with a politically connected corporation.”

Registry spokeswoman Ann Dufresne also said driver information is already safeguarded through a similar program allowing insurance agents and car dealers to do vehicle registrations. She said the same protections would be applied to driver license information.

She also sought to ease layoff concerns, saying, “No one is going to lose their job as a result of this program. This is a customer convenience.”

The initial rollout in West Newton and Worcester will last six months before an expansion is evaluated.

“We just think it’s a win-win for our customers, giving them greater choice, helping to reduce wait times in our busiest branches and bringing back Saturday hours,” Dufresne said.

Massachusetts has 4.9 million licensed drivers. It does not expect AAA, which is based in Heathrow, Fla., to levy a surcharge for the service.

Similar programs are being used in Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Massachusetts pilot program will be used to determine any cost savings the state might derive from a broader rollout.

The partnership is not evolving from legislation but rather a streamlined procurement process since there are not three or more vendors who cater to the motoring public, Dufresne said.

Ongoing state budget concerns have forced the Registry to trim its branches’ hours. They now open at 9 a.m. most weekdays, instead of 8:30 a.m., and close at 5 p.m., while on Thursdays, they are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., instead of 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. They are not open on Saturdays, unlike AAA’s Massachusetts branches.

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