HD54 - A Study of the Feasibility and Effectiveness of Using Bar Code Technology by the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of State Police

Executive Summary:

Today, the use of bar code technology is rapidly gaining favor among motor vehicle departments across the United States, addressing numerous different data communication needs. As the need to transmit electronic vehicle information increases, states are looking to new forms of technology that will provide accurate information, while promoting the efficiency of motor vehicle departments and the safety of police officers.

In Virginia, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has launched an aggressive program to incorporate the use of bar code technology to enhance customer service and improve its business operations.

Bar Code Technology

Bar codes are a form of automatic data capture (ADC) technology. ADC technologies can be classified in several categories. The relevant ADC technologies include magstripe, standard bar code and a third category which includes two dimensional (2D) bar code, chip card and optical card.

In studying ADC technologies, one will find 2D bar codes to be regarded as the best technology for holding and maintaining vehicle information. Many states are using 2D bar codes to meet information retrieval needs.

The 2D bar code is approved by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). They suggest that 2D bar codes serve as a standard among states to facilitate the transmittal of information between jurisdictions.

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Currently, DMV prints the AAMVA adopted standard PDF (Portable Data File) 417 bar code on the vehicle registration renewal form, the Postnet bar code on the driver's license renewal form, as well as the 3 of 9 bar code on transcripts printed for mailing. Postnet bar codes are also used for large mailings, such as vehicle renewals.

DMV is currently working to broaden its use of 2D bar code technology. Several major projects are being implemented by DMV that would place bar codes on additional driver and vehicle documents.

There is an abundance of evidence that demonstrates the impracticality of placing bar codes on license plates, and AAMVA does not currently recommend that bar codes be placed on license plates.

Section 46.2-208 of the Code of Virginia assigns responsibility to DMV for ensuring that only those who are specifically entitled to view personal and vehicle information may do so. Since bar code reading equipment is available to the general public, only limited vehicle-related information could be included in a license plate bar code.

Department of State Police

The Virginia State Police Department is currently researching new technology methods to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department. However, these new technology plans do not include adding bar code reading capabilities.

Bar code technology could prove beneficial to public safety agencies in identity document authentication. The greatest potential benefit of bar coding is in aiding in reporting. However, significant costs to public safety agencies would be incurred in equipping vehicles with bar code reading capabilities.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recognizes the usefulness of bar code technology and has successfully incorporated it into many of its current operations. Because the agency sees a bright future for the use of the 2D bar code, they intend adding more bar code capabilities as appropriate.

While DMV is implementing a system to produce many forms of bar codes, the Virginia State Police possesses no reading capabilities to benefit from applications of the technology. Therefore, the full potential of bar code technology cannot be met. Supplying only the Department of State Police with readers would also be of limited benefit without the existence of parallel capabilities in city and county police departments.

DMV and the Virginia State Police both share goals and address many common issues. By aggressively implementing the technology as opportunities are presented, DMV has paved the way for other agencies, particularly public safety agencies, to use DMV-produced bar coding.

Based on the results of the study, the following recommendations are made:

• The benefits of bar coding vehicle license plates would be problematic for both DMV and the Department of State Police and is, therefore, not recommended.

• Assuming the continued development of the use of bar code technology by DMV, it is recommended that the Department of State Police be directed to determine the cost and feasibility of acquiring the capability of employing bar code technology as opportunities are presented.

• It is recommended that a joint technology committee of DMV and the Virginia State Police, to include representation from the Council on Information Management, be created by the heads of the two agencies. The purpose of the committee would be to jointly research and consider how existing and new technology opportunities can be employed to improve services offered by the two departments to the citizens of the Commonwealth.