Back to Driving Force, Spring 2018

States Mingle With Single Plates

As state lawmakers convene to begin their 2018 legislative sessions, a series of license plate bills have been introduced. While some proposals expand current options or create new opportunities, several allow the issuance of a single, rear-mounted license plate. This legislation represents a continuing trend and is often an attempt by states to save money and conserve resources. Those owning hobby cars and trucks—new and old alike—overwhelmingly support these efforts. After all, vehicle owners are spared the burden of having to create mounting holes on original and fabricated bumpers and the aesthetic contours of collector cars are preserved.

Generally, single-plate bills target the smallest population of vehicles possible in order to pass muster with the state agencies, including and most prominently, law enforcement. Only a few states have enacted single-plate bills in recent years. In each case, they are unique and benefit a limited audience.

Following is an overview of bills currently being considered:

Illinois: Legislation has been introduced in Illinois to require the issuance of only a single, rear-mounted license plate for all newly-registered motor vehicles. As the legislature’s last session adjourned, legislation to provide that motor vehicles registered as “secondary vehicles” and driven less than 5,000 miles per year may display only a single plate on the rear of the vehicle died. That bill did not receive any consideration outside its committee of jurisdiction.

Iowa: Legislation was introduced that allows model 1978 or older vehicles to display a single license plate on the rear of the vehicle. Current law allows single license plates on model 1948 or older vehicles. The bill also allows reconstructed or specially constructed vehicles built to resemble motor vehicles which are 1978 model years old or older to display a single plate.

Maryland: Legislation has been introduced in Maryland to require the issuance of only a single license plate for all motor vehicles.

New Mexico: In contrast to other states, New Mexico introduced legislation to require license plates on the front and rear of all motor vehicles (it currently permits a single license plate). The bill passed the House of Representatives, but fortunately died in the Senate as the legislature adjourned. This bill may be reintroduced in the 2019 session.

Wisconsin: Legislation was introduced in Wisconsin that would allow vehicles manufactured without a front license-plate bracket and collector’s special interest vehicles the option to display only a single license plate on the rear of the vehicle.