Kentuckians would be able to order flat license plates online as soon as early 2019 under a proposed overhaul of the state’s licensing system.
John-Mark Hack, commissioner of the state Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Vehicle Regulation, told a legislative panel Tuesday that Kentucky could save $320,000 a year if it modernizes its license plate production and distribution system.
Instead of the current embossed plates with raised lettering, the new plates would be smooth and have the capacity to accommodate more letters and numbers on them.
Kentucky, along with its 120 county clerks, licenses 4 million vehicles, Hack told the legislature’s joint transportation committee. The state, which has not replaced its license plates since 2005, offers 136 types of specialty plates, ranging from eight public university plates to 25 military plates.
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Under the current system, county clerks order plates from the state, which orders plates from Kentucky Correctional Industries, a program that uses the labor of 55 inmates at the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange.
The inmates produce plates with obsolete equipment from the 1960s. The state retrieves the plates and ships them to county clerks, who distribute them to motorists.=
Hack said the state wants to let motorists who get one of two standard plates — one features “Unbridled Spirit” and the other says “In God We Trust” — pick up their plate from the county clerk’s office or receive it directly from the point of production.
If a motorist gets one of the state’s 136 specialty license plates, it would be printed on demand. “You would not leave the county clerk’s office with them, but you would receive them in the mail in the 3-5 day period after you placed the order,” Hack said.
Flat plates that are not embossed are more cost effective to produced and can be mailed more cheaply, he said.
No changes to the design of the plates have been discussed, but a new design could be contemplated, Hack said.
He said the goal is to replace the flat plates every five years. Motorists would buy stickers for them in intervening years.
Under the new system, only 10 prison inmates would be needed to make the plates. Vendors hired by the state would be in charge of the production of the plates in partnership with correctional industries.
The state Transportation Cabinet can implement the new system without any change in current law, Hack said. He said he does not anticipate any price increase to consumers under the new system.
“We still have a lot more work to do before rolling this out to the public,” Hack said.
Anderson County Clerk Jason Denny, who went to Indiana with state officials to see its “flat-plate” system, told lawmakers “I’m good with the new system.”