Starting last Monday, hourlong wait times at Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles offices increased as the American Automobile Association Northeast decided to stop serving non-members.
One of two such advocacy clubs for car owners in Connecticut, AAA Northeast resolved this fall to break a 15-year working relationship with the state DMV. Previously, state residents seeking to renew drivers licenses could have opted to do so at AAA offices.
This move did not go over well in Hartford: In an open letter to the club, Gov. Dannel Malloy threatened possible legal action if the AAA regional club followed through with its plan. The state’s other AAA affiliate, AAA Allied, also stood against AAA Northeast’s decision.
“If AAA Northeast continues to maintain its position that it will refuse to serve non-members,” Malloy said in the letter, “I will direct DMV to take any and all necessary legal steps to resolve this matter.”
AAA Northeast is required by the contract to provide 60 days written notice before officially terminating the relationship, Malloy said in the letter. He described the company’s decision as unacceptable as it disrupts the progress the DMV has made in improving customer services. To him, the relationship between the company and state department has also been beneficial for AAA: the photo-license renewal service helped increase membership, and the DMV funneled it $300,000 in annual support to provide technical help and facilities maintenance.
But for the auto club, recent changes created challenges for it to continue serving non-members in its eight Connecticut offices. In the past five years, the Department of Homeland Security mandated that the club adopt the secure licensing technology Real ID, which lengthened the renewal process by 50 percent and made the transaction more complex. At the same time, the volume of people seeking help doubled.
The company attempted to reach an agreement with state officials, but was unable to do so, said Mark Shaw, president & CEO of AAA Northeast said in a statement to the News. The company still hopes to find a creative solution with legislative leaders, and to work again with the state motor department.
“We have been talking to DMV about this situation for a long time,” said Fran Mayko, the public relations coordinator of AAA Northeast. “In fact, there was a meeting two or three years ago with then-commissioner Melody Currey.”
Mayko added that the DMV refused the company’s proposal to discontinue services for non-members at that time. According to her, the Oct. 3 decision CEO Shaw made to just serve the paying members was the last step in a series of failed negotiations. It’s not likely for this decision to be reversed, she said.
Meanwhile, AAA Allied, the other auto club in Connecticut affiliated with the national organization, will continue to provide licensing services without interruption or change, said Amy Parmenter, the public affairs manager with AAA Allied Group.
“We want to be clear that no matter where you live in Connecticut, you are welcome to come into any one of our offices for your licensing services, members and non-members,” Parmenter said.
New Haven is under AAA Northeast.