New web tool helps consumers identify vehicle safety recalls

December 5, 2016

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that vehicle recalls are at an all-time high, meaning millions of unfixed and unsafe vehicles are on the road.

NHTSA’s new online search tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to quickly learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.

You can find NHTSA’s new VIN search tool at www.safercar.gov/VIN.

NHTSA stresses that vehicles in need of safety-related repairs should be fixed as soon as possible, and that doing so could save lives.


Buyer beware of flood-damaged vehicles for sale

September 16, 2016

OLYMPIA—Following recent flooding in Louisiana that left as many as 100,000 vehicles seriously damaged, unsuspecting buyers across the nation are being warned to do their homework before purchasing a used vehicle.

Many of these vehicles are expected to be transported from state to state, repaired and put back on the market at auto auctions, used car dealerships, and even by private sellers.

Consumers in Washington should take extra precautions by adding flood damage to the list of concerns to be aware of when purchasing a used vehicle.

After being cleaned up, these vehicles may look like any other vehicle on the surface. However, there are significant mechanical, safety and health risks associated with flood-damaged vehicles.

Dirty floodwater causes rust and damages major mechanical parts and safety systems such as engines, air bags, anti-lock brakes and transmissions. The water also damages electrical systems, especially on-board computers that are often located under seats or in other low points in vehicles.

These tips can help to spot potential flood-damaged vehicles:

  • Before buying any used car, always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. The extra cost may save money in the long run if major problems are discovered.
  • Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped “salvage.”
  • Use an online vehicle history tracking service like Carfax.com to get more information about a vehicle’s past.
  • Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and to look for signs of water.
  • Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
  • Check the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
  • Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
  • Check for a well-defined line, or watermark, and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
  • If the car’s history seems suspicious, ask the seller if the car has been damaged by floodwater. Get the answer in writing on the bill of sale.

It’s time to renew: 2016 boat decals expire June 30

June 8, 2016
Everett Marina with Mt. Baker

DOL

OLYMPIA—Boating season is here, and the deadline for renewing boat and watercraft registration decals is right around the corner.

All Washington state boat registrations expire on June 30.

Don’t let an expired registration spoil your day; remember to renew before you get out on the water.

Boat registrations can be renewed online at the DOL website or in person at a neighborhood vehicle licensing office.

Those who choose to renew at an office should make sure to note the registration number on the bow of the boat or watercraft and take that information to the office.


New law prohibits Washington wholesale vehicle dealers from conducting business outside our state

March 31, 2016

Photo of window sign at a wholesale vehicle dealer location showing 180 separate licenseesThe Washington Legislature recently took action to change our state’s wholesale vehicle dealer license law to stop out-of-state businesses with no connection to Washington from obtaining licenses to conduct vehicle dealer business outside of our state.

The primary changes to this law include requiring wholesale vehicle dealers to only buy vehicles from, and sell to, other Washington state licensed vehicle dealers. It also prohibits more than three wholesale vehicle dealers from sharing a single business location.

Photo of interior of wholesale vehicle dealer license location showing long rows of empty desksRecently, there has been an 800 percent increase in the monthly number of wholesale vehicle dealer licensing applications submitted to the Department of Licensing. These applications are submitted on behalf of out-of-state individuals by Internet-based companies.

These companies advertise the service of taking care of all of the paperwork necessary to set up a Washington business and obtain a Washington wholesale dealer license on behalf of their clients. As a result, these out-of-state business owners are all located at a handful of addresses in our state including a single address in the small town of Wilbur in Eastern Washington used by more than 300 wholesale vehicle dealers as their place of business.

Because these out-of-state wholesale dealers are not located in Washington or doing business here, it is impossible for the Department of Licensing to monitor, investigate or regulate these businesses.

Our state’s wholesale vehicle dealer license law is set up to provide a lot of operational flexibility to companies that only sell buy and sell vehicles at dealer-only auctions or directly to other vehicle dealers. Dealers with this type of license are prohibited from selling vehicles directly to consumers. However, individuals across the country have been taking advantage of our flexible laws and obtaining these licenses in our state with no intention of doing business here.

Other office buildings in Moses Lake, Everett and Spokane Valley also are set up in a similar way to house out-of-state wholesale dealers who are, on paper at least, located together. There is no evidence that any of the hundreds of wholesale dealers have ever stepped foot in any of these facilities. Instead, they pay monthly rent to the owners of these Internet companies and receive mail forwarding services.

This new law (ESSB 6606) takes effect immediately and the Department of Licensing will soon begin notifying current wholesale vehicle dealer licensees of the new requirements.


Update: No federal announcement about new identification requirements for air travel

December 31, 2015

Starting January 10, 2016, standard Washington state driver licenses and ID cards may no longer be accepted as a standalone identity document at a limited number of secure federal facilities.

This change does not affect commercial airline travel. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicated they would announce when and how REAL ID enforcement would affect air travel at commercial airports by the end of 2015. DHS has not announced this information and has not provided updated information about when they plan to. While many media reports indicate this change will affect air travel in January, in April, or “sometime in 2016,” no information released from DHS supports these reports.

Even under REAL ID, most services provided by the federal government do not require identification to be presented, and that will not change. Washington residents who do not have a federally compliant document will still have access to federal courts, Social Security offices, federal health care facilities, national parks and other public benefits.

The Department of Licensing this week was provided further clarity from the federal General Services Administration, the agency that manages logistics at most federal facilities. They indicate that there are five federal facilities in Washington State that will be subject to REAL ID enforcement—requiring federally acceptable identification documents for entry into these facilities, or requiring secondary screening for persons that do not have a federally acceptable document. The facilities are:

  • U.S. Department of Justice – Seattle Immigration Court, 1000 2nd Ave.
  • Non-customer service federal offices in the 5th and Yesler Building, 300 5th, Seattle
  • Non-customer service areas of Seattle Federal Building, 1200 6th
  • Non-customer service areas of Spokane U.S. Courthouse, 920 W. Riverside Ave.
  • Non-customer service areas of Vancouver Federal Building, 500 W. 12th

However, according to the GSA, a facility security committee could adopt “alternative access control procedures” for these five facilities that would allow individuals to use a standard driver license to enter. It will become important to contact these types of secure federal facilities before visiting if you do not have one of the types of identification documents listed below:

  • Enhanced Driver Licenses and Enhanced ID Card
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
  • Transportation worker identification credential (TWIC card)
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card

This change on January 10 will not have significant impacts on most Washington residents. Washingtonians are encouraged to investigate all of their options for obtaining a federally acceptable ID document like a U.S. Passport/Passport Card, state Enhanced Driver License/ID card, or other ID documents that will be accepted by federal agencies to enter secure federal facilities.

REAL ID was passed by Congress in 2005 and has seen a number of implementation delays. Washington is among 24 states that have been operating with a REAL ID compliance extension because our regular driver licenses and ID cards do not meet all 41 different REAL ID requirements. In October, 2015, DHS denied our state’s request for another compliance extension which makes Washington state subject to the REAL ID enforcement schedule.

Over the past several years, Washington’s driver licenses and ID cards have met many of the REAL ID requirements (21 out of 41) by adopting national best practices for driver license and ID card security—done regardless of the REAL ID Act. Washington is one of five states that issue Enhanced Driver Licenses and ID cards, which are valid for federal purposes.


Washington CDL holders must soon prove citizenship or permanent residency

June 30, 2015
truck-busOLYMPIA—Starting Sept. 1, 2015, anyone seeking a commercial driver license (CDL) or commercial learner permit (CLP) in Washington will be required to prove they are a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident.
 
This new law does not affect anyone’s ability to get or retain a regular driver license. Commercial drivers are not required to present this proof until their next CDL or CLP renewal or other transaction that requires a change to their record, including name, address, and endorsement changes.
 
Drivers with an enhanced personal driver license or enhanced commercial driver license issued in Washington before Sept. 1, 2015, are not required to again prove their lawful permanent residency or U.S. citizenship.
 
This new requirement is due to the state’s mandatory compliance with federal law and one aspect of a broad public safety effort around CDLs that brings Washington into line with the national standard.
 
Starting Sept. 1, commercial drivers must visit one of 28 designated offices to complete their CDL or CLP transaction because of the special resources needed to verify documents. The full list of designated office locations can be found at dol.wa.gov/cdlchanges.
 
Commercial drivers should have one of the six approved documents in their possession before arriving at a designated licensing office, including:
·         Valid U.S. Passport or Passport Card issued by the U.S. Department of State;
·         Birth certificate issued by a state or local government. A hospital-issued “Certificate of Live Birth” is not acceptable;
·         Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State;
·         Certificate of Naturalization issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;
·         Certificate of Citizenship issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;
·         Permanent Resident Card or “Green Card” issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Obtaining duplicate documents can take several weeks. Commercial drivers are encouraged to begin the process immediately if they do not currently have at least one in their possession. Photocopies will not be accepted. The Department of Licensing (DOL) will be unable to complete CDL or CLP transactions of those drivers who are unable to provide one of the approved documents.
 
Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency is not required to replace a lost, damaged, or stolen card.
 
More information is available online at dol.wa.gov/cdlchanges or by calling the Washington Department of Licensing Driver Customer Service line at 360-902-3900.

Beware of unlicensed limousine companies

April 20, 2015

limo-1Prom night creates driving hazards for many young people in our state each spring.

Hiring a limousine service is one way parents and students can ease their anxiety and help ensure the night’s travel itinerary is safe.

However, there are unlicensed limousine services putting everyone on the road at risk.

Unlicensed and unregulated limo businesses offer rides in vehicles that may be dangerous and driven by people who are unfit to drive or provide services to young people.

Limo-poster-thumbnailParents and students can easily check whether a business is licensed by visiting the Department of Licensing’s website.

DOL’s website includes consumer tips, a printable poster and a video that offers tips about hiring a limo service.

DOL’s printable poster states, Don’t Muck Around When You Rent a Limo, and includes helpful information.