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New flat surface license plates make debut

Embossed plates giving way to more efficient digital print process
license plates
Both license plates in this photo are samples of the regular issue plates now being rushed into circulation.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A new kind of Kentucky license plate has begun appearing on motor vehicles in the commonwealth.

The most significant difference is in their manufacture — digitally printed on flat aluminum instead of traditional, embossed metal with raised letters and numbers.

The larger, unseen difference will be in savings to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) on storage space, bulk manufacturing and unused inventory. With digital technology, standard and specialty license plates can be produced as needed rather than having to be mass-produced.

“This digital technology will make license production and issuance more efficient for KYTC, county clerks and, ultimately, vehicle owners,” Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said.

Kentucky Correctional Industries (KCI) will continue to manufacture the plates at the Kentucky State Reformatory. But with digital technology, KCI will be able to print the requested number and ship them directly to county clerk offices. Under the current process, the state must account, store, and handle over 300 license plate types at over 145 locations and two warehouses.

KYTC had planned to begin introducing digital plates in late 2020. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reformatory and its plate production had to be shut down temporarily, so digital plates are being introduced ahead of schedule.

The vendor of the new production equipment, Intellectual Technologies Inc., is temporarily taking over production from KCI and is printing the new Kentucky plates at its Fort Wayne, Indiana, plant.

“We commend Intellectual Technologies for stepping up to help us ensure our counties an uninterrupted supply of license plates,” Gray said.

Newer plates will gradually replace older license plates. There is no change in procedure for vehicle owners, who will continue to purchase plates and register vehicles with their county clerks. Fees for the plates will remain the same, as will the lineup of available special plates.