On August 18, 2021

50,000 Vermonters to receive new driver’s licenses after barcode errors caused travel issues

By Ashley DeLeon/VTDigger Almost 50,000 Vermonters are expected to receive new driver’s licenses after several newly printed cards were rejected by federal transportation scanning machines, according to the Vermont Dept. of Motor Vehicles.

The error did not impact people’s ability to travel, a DMV official said, but it slowed down the process of passing through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at airports.

Most affected individuals received letters from the DMV stating that an issue with the barcodes on their licenses will not hinder travel abilities and that new credentials will be mailed within 30 to 45 days, according to Michael Smith, deputy commissioner for the Dept. of Motor Vehicles.

TSA officials are aware of the issue, he said.

The DMV is asking people to destroy their old licenses after they receive the new one.

The issue arose due to an issue with “2D” barcodes located on the back of the license, Smith said, which are read by TSA’s Credential Authentication Technology machines.

When the machine read the date of birth for new cards, the numbers were inverted. As a result, the card would get rejected.

Vermonters could still travel if they talked through the issue with the TSA officer, according to Smith.

The barcode issue first arose in March 2020, Smith said, but a planned fix was not implemented. The problem arose again in January 2021, when a Vermont resident had an issue with their new license at an airport outside of Vermont.

Over time, more complaints followed.

In a conference call with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and TSA, Smith and the commissioner learned that the CAT machine had rejected many new licenses.

“What we found out was that TSA had copies of our templates, which are copies of the licenses, but they had not loaded them into the system yet because they were waiting for it to coincide with the implementation of Real ID,” he said.

“Individuals with enhanced licenses approaching the border, or using them in the manner in which they were designed for, will never know the difference,” he said. The issue only arises when the barcode is scanned, which often happens at airports and out-of-state bars. If a bar has a scan tool, they may be able to notice the error.

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