Long lines emerged this week as Minnesota opened 16 state-run driver’s license facilities, including the one in Rochester.
The openings, which started Tuesday, provided access to written tests, permit applications and road tests for motorcycle and commercial driver’s licenses.
In Rochester, 240 written tests were taken in the first two days of being open, which was nearly half of the interactions at the 1633 N. Broadway Ave. facility. Other activity included payments of fees and nearly 140 new license applications.
Here’s a few things to know as the state starts offering road tests for standard Class D licenses starting Tuesday:
1. Tests will be by appointment only.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Division of Driver and Vehicle Services —- also known as “the DMV” — is giving priority to the more than 12,000 people who had their appointments canceled during the statewide stay-at-home order.
Appointments for previously unscheduled Class D road tests will be taken after canceled appointments are rescheduled.
2. Only 15 sites will offer road tests.
The state opened facilities in St. Paul, Arden Hills, Anoka, Eagan, Plymouth, Rochester, Mankato, Fairmont, Marshall, Willmar, Detroit Lakes, St. Cloud, Brainerd, Duluth, Grand Rapids and Bemidji, but the St. Paul exam station does not provide road tests.
Other state-run exam stations will remain closed in order to expand the number of tests offered on a daily basis. Exam stations that aren’t reopening were served by examiners who traveled between sites within the region to conduct tests.
DMV officials say focusing on the regional exam stations allows examiners to remain at one location and use the time they would have spent traveling to conduct more tests.
3. Six months of appointments are open for rescheduling.
The DMV is emailing everyone whose road tests were canceled, notifying people who had March appointments first, followed by April and May.
Minnesotans with canceled tests can reschedule online at drive.mn.gov at any of the open exam stations by selecting “Schedule or Reschedule an Exam” on the website.
Anyone with a road test already scheduled for the next six months at one of the 15 exam stations will keep the appointment, but appointments at other stations will be canceled and applicants will be sent directions on how to reschedule at open stations.
4. Hours are extended to accommodate retests.
Exam stations are adding an extra hour to the beginning and end of each business day to administer road retests, which will be done by appointment only from 7 to 8 a.m. and 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays.
5, Be prepared for changes.
How Class D road tests are conducted is changing for the safety of customers and examiners.
Applicants will be required to complete short questionnaires and have their temperatures taken prior to testing, and face masks are encouraged. Examiners will wear face masks, face shields or safety glasses, and gloves.
To provide time to sanitize vehicles, the state is temporarily waiving the equipment inspection portion of the road test, acknowledging less than 5% of applicants fail that part of the exam.
Examiners will still ride in the vehicle, but a test will end immediately if the applicant does something to automatically fail the exam, which includes any action that would result in an accident or moving violation.
6. Don’t go to a test site to update your license.
Gov. Tim Walz approved extending driver's licenses or ID cards that expire during the existing statewide peacetime emergency, and test centers are not taking new applications without a scheduled exam.
However, people needing to update their licenses are being instructed to pre-apply online at drive.mn.gov and visit their local deputy registrar or driver’s license agent office to complete their application in person.
While offices were not required to open this week, several throughout Southeast Minnesota did. According to the state website, cities with open offices include Austin, Caledonia, Cannon Falls, Pine Island, Mantorville, Preston, Rochester, Wabasha and Winona.