BOSTON (CBS) – In a change of tune, the head of the Registry of Motor Vehicles admitted to state lawmakers on Tuesday that the state agency misfired during the rollout of a new vehicle inspection program.
“The transition was not what the Commonwealth had anticipated,” Registrar Erin Deveney said. “There were station inspectors who were not able to conduct inspections because they legitimately had many unanswered questions about how to use the new equipment.”
Deveney’s remarks came during testimony before the Joint Committee on Transportation. The mea culpa was a start contrast from earlier comments during the rocky rollout of the new inspection program.
As inspection stations turned away customers and lost business, the initial response from the RMV was the transition was “going smoothly.”
It further infuriated shop owners when Deveney appeared to blame them for the poor performance.
However, emails the WBZ I-Team obtained show the hotline provided to inspection stations to troubleshoot issues was ineffective within hours of the rollout. Inspection station owners had told WBZ they were on hold for hours or never received return phone calls.
“At this time, the hotline is overwhelmed with calls so continuing to send them to the hotline is not helpful at this time,” wrote an RMV manager on October 2.
The vendor, Applus Technologies, enlisted extra employees from Connecticut and Georgia to help answer calls and answer questions in the field, according to the emails.
Those internal messages also show a flurry of questions from state lawmakers, who were getting peppered with inquiries from angry constituents.
“What type of system checks occurred before implementation of the inspection system because it seemed to me it was almost done on the the fly?” asked Rep. Thomas Walsh, a Democrat from Peabody, during Tuesday’s hearing.
Deveney said there was too much of an emphasis getting new work station equipment in place, and not enough resources invested in making sure people actually knew how to use it.
“Unfortunately, we did not give them the support that they deserved,” Deveney acknowledged.
The good news: There are now nearly 1,800 stations performing inspections, which is comparable to the number of locations operating prior to the transition.
Some station owners have wondered if they will be compensated for the lost revenue at the beginning of the month.
An RMV spokeswoman told WBZ there is no plan to provide money to those stations because the number of inspections conducted so far this month is now on pace with the tally performed during the same period of October 2016.
Deveney told lawmakers that the vendor and RMV staffers are currently making in-person visits at inspection stations around the state so “they receive the level of service they deserve to navigate the transition successfully.”
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.