Fleets Still Experiencing Residual Effects of Sept. 11
These aftershocks include the enforcement of more stringent DMV registration renewal requirements, slower turnaround times to process MVRs at "manual states," tougher parking regulations, and, in some instances, much closer scrutiny by insurance carriers for accidents that were the fault of their clients.
More Stringent DMV Requirements
The state of Texas DMV is a prime example of more stringent registration requirements following Sept. 11. Last February, it began strictly enforcing a law, already on the books for more than a year but rarely enforced, that mandated stricter requirements to re-register vehicles or get duplicate titles. Now fleets need to provide the Texas DMV with a picture ID of the vehicle's registered owner and a separate one of the lien holder. "We never had to do this in the past," said Gerri Patton, manager, license & title for LeasePlan USA. Another area of increased scrutiny is the acceptance of registration fee payments.
"Several Texas counties won't accept our checks anymore unless they are certified," added Tim Delaney, manager of license and title for ARI. Also becoming more stringent are the DMVs in California and New Jersey. "When applying for a duplicate title in these states, we now have to provide a copy of the registration, which again, is something that we didn't have to do before," said Patton.
State DMVs are also monitoring more closely than they did in the past that a valid power of attorney is in their possession before registering new fleet vehicles, added Delaney. One way to side step these requirements is by registering vehicles electronically, said Carolyn Reeves, manager, registration operations for Wheels. "However, there are discussions in some states to make vehicle registration requirements even stricter in the future. For instance, Ohio and New Jersey are considering adding the requirement that a driver's Social Security number or a company's federal ID number also be submitted before they will register a vehicle," added Reeves.
Longer Turnaround for MVRs
For the most part, MVRs are transmitted electronically to fleets; however, there are four states that do not. These "manual states" include Delaware, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington, along with the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. "The amount of time it takes a manual state to process MVR requests (since Sept. 11) has increased due to new security procedures," said Lynn Berberich, vice president, customer services for PHH Arval. The reason these states process MVRs manually is not due to a lack of technology, but because of state privacy laws.
Increased Scrutiny by Insurers
Another post-Sept. 11 residual effect is in the area of accident management. "We are subrogating against insurance carriers for accidents where their client is at fault," said Berberich. "The insurance carriers are scrutinizing claims in a way they never have before. They are auditing and challenging everything." Berberich postulated that this is a response to the large losses that the insurance industry incurred as a result of the damage caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Tougher NYC Fleet Parking Violation Program
New York City has always been a stickler about paperwork and since Sept. 11 it has become even stricter. "The city is now kicking companies out of its fleet parking violation program if the registered name on a vehicle doesn't match the name in the parking violation program," said Delaney. "A leased vehicle is usually registered in the lessor's name; however, it is often registered with the fleet parking program under the company name, which is causing a mismatch of names."
A Return to Normality
Mail delivery following Sept. 11 remained extremely slow until the end of January. In one test, GE Capital Fleet Services reported that it took 14 days for a letter to be delivered from Minneapolis to St. Paul, MN, the adjacent city. The Northeast U.S., in particular New York and New Jersey, which were the epicenters of the anthrax scare, experienced mail delays as late as April as post offices struggled to install irradiation equipment. Many fleets began to compensate for the mail delays by starting registration renewals 60 days prior to expiration instead of the normal 30 dyas. However, this disruption to the vehicle registration cycle dissipated as mail delivery slowly returned to normal. Similarly, the impact of these other temporary disruptions will likewise dissipate as time marches on. Let me know what you think.