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Tennessee Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons

NASHVILLE - State officials say they've shaved a few minutes off the average wait time to get a Tennessee driver's license and hope to slice more once they install new equipment and software at driver services centers.

But that's not happening immediately, Department of Safety and Homeland Security officials said. Installing the equipment and software, plus a doubling in the number of handgun-carry permit applications in the first six months of 2013, is causing delays.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, average wait times at centers statewide (excluding reinstatement centers) fell from 34 minutes in 2012 to 31.5 minutes in 2013.

The average wait increased slightly from the first to the second quarter of 2013, from 30.5 minutes to 32 minutes.

Still, the department said in a news release, the overall decrease happened while the number of transactions at the centers slightly increased statewide.

Driver's license examiners served 621,405 customers from Jan. 1 through June 30 last year, compared to 626,211 in the same period this year.

"We are monitoring these figures very closely," Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons said in the release. "Reducing the wait time at our driver service centers is a priority, so when we experience an increase we act immediately to identify the reasons."

The release said handgun-carry permit applications grew from 40,503 in the first six months of 2012 to 86,334 handgun in the same period this year.

The new driver's license systems will allow for a centralized process of issuing driver licenses. That's expected to help reduce wait times further.

The Driver Services Division also is hiring some part-timers to work during peak hours.

"The new equipment and additional staff should help us in the long term provide better and more efficient service to our customers," Gibbons noted.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550.