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Commissioner says changes need to be made for license plates and driver’s licenses in Kentucky

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

New license plates and driver’s licenses could be coming to Kentucky soon.
John-Mark Hack, commissioner of the Department of Vehicle Regulation, made a presentation to the General Assembly’s Interim Joint Transportation Committee on Tuesday in Frankfort.

He told lawmakers the current system of license plate issuance is woefully inefficient and, since the design hasn’t changed since 2005, some vehicles have 12-year-old plates where the reflective materials have worn off and many are unreadable.

“They compromise public safety, bridge-tolling and Kentucky’s public image,” Hack said.

The license plates are made by prison inmates at the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange. 

“The production system we use is literally a relic of the 1960s,” he told the committee.  “We could not sell the system to Somalia, if we wanted to.  It’s like making them with an abacus.” 
He also testified that with 136 different license plate designs currently offered, including 39 for special organizations, it’s a drain on the Road Fund. 

“We are using Road Fund money to subsidize fund-raising efforts of non-profits.  That seems, to me, to be an inappropriate use of the road fund, as I’m sure it may seem to most of you.”

Hack proposes using a print-on-demand system for production and distribution. 

“It can make county clerks’ lives easier by integrating new technology that can essentially eliminate physical inventory, greatly reduce their storage requirements and automate the plate-ordering process.”

Working with a vendor, he said prison inmates would learn how to work with CAD systems, a marketable skill when they complete their sentence.  Using the state-of-the-art system would save the Road Fund more than $320,000 per year by making the process more efficient and have savings in county clerks offices as well.
Clerks would only stock the two standard license plates.  The others would be mailed to consumers, within five days.  The new system could also allow more characters on license plates, according to Hack.

Changes could be in place as early as 2019.

Real ID Act

Hack also gave an update on the implementation of the federal Real ID Act in Kentucky.

Real ID will be required to enter military bases and to board a domestic airliner in January 2018, but legislation passed by the General Assembly doesn’t take effect until January 2019 at the earliest. 

“We have an extension until Oct. 10, 2017 and will submit a request for additional time this week.  We are now in the same boat as 28 other states who are operating under the same extension.”

The so-called “Voluntary Travel ID” will cost $48 and will be good for eight years, unlike current drivers’ licenses that have to be renewed every four years. 

A standard driver’s license, for those who don’t want to provide additional documentation, will run $43, but it cannot be used to board flights and enter military bases.

Applications for the ID can be made at the circuit clerk’s offices and licenses will be processed at a secure facility within the Transportation Cabinet.  Hack anticipates they will be processed and mailed within 5-10 days.

“We realize we will have to conduct a comprehensive public information campaign to make sure Kentucky drivers are aware of things like document requirements when they apply for a new or renewed license, under the new law.”

He adds the Voluntary Travel IDs will likely look different than current licenses due to security enhancements available in new production technology. 

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