(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
Since April various license bureaus across the state have issued driver license, permit and non-driver license documents with a new format and enhanced security features, but Wednesday was the first day the Sikeston License Bureau began issuing them.
"We're not the last ones to get them!" laughed Sikeston License Bureau Fee Agent Sharon Ferrell. "I know Dexter and Cape have them already, but there are other cities that don't."
Jefferson City, Fulton, Columbia and St. Louis (South Kingshighway Branch) piloted the new licenses. Upon completion of the pilot program the remaining licensing offices are being phased in during the following months, with an expected completion after the first of the year and possibly into January.
"We wanted to see how it went and how it worked in the branch offices," Jessica Robinson, public information officer for the DOR, explained about the pilot. "We wanted to test how the machines react to the larger cities like Columbia and the smaller cities like Fulton. Just like anything that's new, you start small and work out any kinks along the way."
New security features will assist the DOR and law enforcement agencies in fraudulent document investigations, according to DOR. The most evident new feature is a ghost portrait of the applicant that will appear at the bottom of the license, Robinson noted.
"If you look at the ghost-printed data, there's an overlapping material over that, which would make it very difficult to reproduce," Robinson said.
Other security features include: an outline of the state of Missouri and the words "Show Me" across the front of the license visible under ultraviolet light, printed date overlapping the ghost portrait and a two-dimensional barcode on the back of the license.
"The new barcode accurately contains the same information on the front of the license. Before, we had the capability with magnetic strips, but we never implemented them to contain the information. The bar codes will actually have information in them," Robinson said.
Something different than before with the implementation of the new license system and equipment is that DOR's staff is actually able to do on-site training for each of the state's offices, Robinson said.
"Rather than bring all of the state's employees into Jefferson City, train them and then send them back to their offices to implement, we're bringing trainers to the site and training employees and staff on the new equipment," Robinson said.
Sikeston received part of their training Tuesday afternoon, and throughout Wednesday. Last Thursday, the Dexter License Bureau implemented the new license program and fee agent Susan Watkins said so far it's going great. The new equipment produces a driver's license in a little over a minute, which is less time than the previous four or five minutes, she said on Tuesday.
"Anytime you do an upgrade, it definitely simplifies the process," Robinson agreed. "We've been very pleased with the equipment and process. Several steps that had to be done by a technician are now done inside a printer."
Current Missouri driver's licenses will be in circulation for six years so two licenses will actually be out at the same time, Robinson pointed out. Once the last licensing office implements the program, it will be six years from the date that all licenses will have the identical format, she noted.
"So if the last office doesn't implement the program until Jan. 4, then it will be Jan. 4, 2010, when all licenses are the same," Robinson explained.
Although Ferrell admitted Tuesday she didn't know what the licenses would actually look like until the bureau began processing them Wednesday, she admitted it was time for Missouri licenses to get a new look.
"Missouri looks so juvenile compared to the other states," Ferrell said. "Hopefully, the new ones will look a little more up-to-date."
To view the new license online, visit www.dor.state.mo.us/mvdl/.