Texans face delays of weeks, months to renew drivers licenses

HOUSTON – Driver license offices in Texas are back open for business. However, if you are trying to book an appointment, the earliest available may be weeks or even months away.

“Tried to get one. It was for December 8,” said driver Herbert Ashe.

Margo Shea’s Wednesday afternoon appointment at the South Gessner Road office in Houston was booked about two months ago.

“I was surprised that it was taking that long to get in to get the license renewed,” Shea said.

The offices were closed in March because of the pandemic and began a phased reopening at the end of May. Customers now have to book an appointment online for services.

When we checked for appointments for a new driver’s license, the earliest we found in the Houston area was Sept. 8 at the southeast office on Galveston Road. The Houston East, North Mega Center and Dacoma locations did not show availability until January of next year.

“That’s very frustrating, obviously,” Ashe said.

The Department of Public Safety said in an email: “The department is seeing high demand for DL services in some areas of the state, meaning you may have to schedule your appointment farther out due to limited availability.”

DPS is encouraging drivers to renew online and said Texas driver licenses and IDs that expired on or after March 13, 2020, have been extended because of the pandemic. The extension is still in effect and drivers will have 60 additional days once the state announces the extension has been lifted.

Madeleine Gibson, 17, said she made an appointment for a state ID about two months ago.

“It’s ridiculous. For an ID? No. And people need it,” she said.

The system has scheduled more than 1.4 million appointments since May, including past and future dates, DPS said. The agency also said 190,800 customers did not show up for their scheduled appointments.

“Customers making and then not keeping or canceling an appointment has had a tremendous impact on the number of customers our offices are able to serve,” DPS said.

DPS said all of the offices have a limited number of same-day appointments available; however, the appointments fill up quickly and are on a first-come, first-served basis.