Long lines at the DOL could soon be in the rearview mirror.
The state Department of Licensing is outsourcing driving tests in hopes of speeding up how long you have to wait to get your license.
But it won't be cheaper.
Motorcycle training schools began knowledge and skills testing Aug. 1. On Oct. 1, driving schools in King County will be doing the testing for other drivers.
"Once it's working properly and stabilized ... we'll do the rest of the state," said Brad Benfield, a DOL spokesman in Olympia.
That could come as soon as Dec. 1.
"The DOL has been talking to the driving training industry for the past year," he said. "Our goal is to have it transitioned by the end of the year. The intent is to make this whole thing very seamless for folks and allow them to take their training and tests all in the same place."
In 2011, legislators passed the law to get the state agency to contract with driving training schools and school districts to do the knowledge and skills testing.
"This is the legislature's attempt to reduce the waiting times in driver's license offices," Benfield said.
Lorita Haueter, owner of Premier Driving School in Kennewick, believes it will be a lot more convenient for everyone.
"Another thing we've talked about is it will be a lot more comfortable for our students to take their tests with instructors they know rather than Department of Licensing employees," she said. "It won't give them an edge just make them more at ease and, hopefully, cut down on the long wait times at the DOL office."
The idea isn't new.
Benfield said the state has been doing third-party testing for commercial endorsements for years.
And teens, who are required to take driver's education, won't see many changes.
But adults will begin the application process at the DOL office and then will get a list of driving schools offering the tests. Once they've passed, they'll make a quick visit to the DOL office to get their photo taken and to pay their fees, and they'll be free to drive, officials said.
Not all driving schools will be contracting with the DOL to do the testing.
"It's not mandatory and there's extra expenses involved, including insurance, which will cost several thousand dollars," Haueter said.
But companies that participate likely will need to hire more employees.
"It's nice to be one of the few companies actually hiring," she said.
Benfield and Haueter expect getting a driver's license will become more expensive.
"The Department of Licensing will still charge its regular fees but now there will also be additional fees for training and testing by the schools," Benfield said.
A basic driver's license now costs $45, and any endorsements are extra. A motorcycle endorsement is an additional $25, and a commercial endorsement is $71.
At Premier, Haueter still is looking at her costs before setting fees for testing that likely will vary from driving school to driving school.
"You'll want to make some phone calls," Benfield said.
Driver's training at Premier for teens 18 and under is $345; adults have the option of paying by the hour.
"It's $60 per hour, but adults usually only need two or three hours of instruction," she said.
In the Tri-Cities, there's only one company under contract with DOL for motorcycle testing -- Motorcycle Training Inc., 2125 Robertson Drive, Richland.
The knowledge test is $25, the skills exam is $50 at the Richland location, $75 in Walla Walla. Basic training for motorcycle riding is $250.
Turning the testing over to private companies and school districts won't necessarily save the state a lot of money, Benfield said.
"But we think it will certainly provide our staff more time to serve customers. They won't need to leave to do driving tests which can be very time consuming."