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Digital license plates are a reality for heavy trucks in California and Arizona as Texas becomes the latest to adopt this innovative technology, but only for some commercial vehicle fleets.
An electronic version of a traditional one, a digital license plate can provide two-way information for owners and the public.
It can have real-time location monitoring, track trips and mileage and send maintenance alerts. To counter theft, owners can put vehicles in a stolen mode and enable GPS tracking.
A digital license plate can provide two-way information for owners and the public. (Reviver)
Digital plates also can display government notices such as Amber Alerts when the vehicle is not operating, as well as “stolen” or “expired” indicators, said Adam Shaivitz, Texas Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman, adding that preapproved advertising can be shown when vehicles are not in use.
Ronald Ongtoaboc, public information officer at the California DMV, said as of June 21, the state had 12,500 digital license plates registered but doesn’t track vehicle type.
“Heavy-duty trucks or truck fleets can have digital license plates in California. The DMV is exploring vehicle registration alternatives via a pilot program, which includes a digital license plate to replace a vehicle’s traditional rear metal plate with an electronic screen. For tractor trucks, the digital plate is attached to the front of the vehicle,” he said.
This technology is available in California in an ongoing pilot project that began in 2019 and is for public volunteers.
“The California Legislature would have to act to allow these products to be issued outside of the pilot program,” Ongtoaboc said. “The DMV continues to assess existing alternatives as they evolve to ensure adherence to statutory requirements, industry best practices, and consumer safety.”
Heavy-duty trucks in Arizona can have digital license plates bought through a vendor, noted Bill Lamoreaux, assistant communications director for customer outreach at Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) within the Arizona Department of Transportation. He said the MVD is not involved in such transactions and receives no funds from them.
Arizona has 499 total digital plates, with 51 registered to commercial vehicles, Lamoreaux said.
“MVD authorizes the customer to display the plate digitally, and the customer is also mailed their regular metal plate and registration expiration sticker. MVD does not charge separate fees for the customer to display their plate digitally,” he added.
John Esparza, president and CEO of Texas Trucking Association, said he thinks digital license plates may offer benefits tor the trucking industry even though the new program there is for nontruck and trailer combinations.
“I think it’s innovative. The trucking industry typically sits back and is cautious to put their toe in the water until they know all the rules. I think that’s what we’re seeing here. I don’t want to sound discouraging. I like the idea, but we don’t know how it’s going to work just yet,” Esparza said.
While discussing digital plates with a TxDMV official before July 4, he learned no one had asked for them yet.
Roland Luna Sr., TxDMV director of vehicle titles and registration, said his agency “is committed to providing Texas commercial fleets high levels of customer service” in a June 14 announcement that Texas partnered with a digital license plate maker Reviver of Granite Bay, Calif., to help “Texas companies navigate today’s technically competitive landscape.”
“I think it’s fascinating. To me, it does seem so futuristic,” Esparza commented. “I think about some of the things we have been doing over time [in Texas] have led the way in use and ease of technology. Issuing permits is a fantastic example. I’m not surprised the state agency that oversees that is eager to get into that, especially if other states are.”
At present, digital license plates are only authorized by TxDMV for vehicles requiring two plates, with the digital plate on the rear of a vehicle and the traditional metal plate on the front, noted Shaivitz, adding that truck-tractors and semi-trailers are ineligible because they require one plate.
He said Texas fleet owners must pay for the plates along with a yearly $95 administrative fee for digital license plates.
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C.J. Meurell, executive vice president of sales at Reviver, said other states are involved in different legislative processes to offer digital license plates for commercial vehicles including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and New York.
“We are working closely with our partners at the TxDMV and are confident that the range of vehicles eligible for digital license plates will expand over time as we see success with the program within the state,” Meurell said.