December 11, 2000
License tabs to be issued for back plate only
Vehicle owners who renew their license tabs for 2002 will only receive one tab to be placed on the back plate. However, front license plates are still required. Owners with January license tab renewals received renewal notices in the mail last month. These reminder cards say tabs should be displayed on the back license plate. Renewal notices are sent about six weeks before tabs expire.
"This may be a little confusing at first, since people are used to receiving two tabs, not one," said Nancy Kelly, Department of Licensing assistant director. "But using only a back plate tab helps cut costs each year by about $330,000."
Elimination of front tabs was a cost-saving measure approved by the 2000 Washington State Legislature and the agency's budget was reduced accordingly. Vehicle owners are not expected or encouraged to remove existing front tabs from their license plates. And if they put the tab on the wrong plate, Kelly suggests they just switch the front and back plates around. If that isn't possible, a new tab can be purchased for a small fee.
Exceptions to this change include commercial trucks licensed in multiple states, which are required to display tabs on front and back license plates. Large trucks licensed solely in Washington will receive only one tab. Requirements for motorcycles and mopeds remain unchanged.
Law enforcement agencies have been told of the change. They will be looking for the current year tab on back license plates and may verify the front plate is still on your vehicle.
Also beginning last month, vehicle owners with license plates issued from 1987 to 1989 began receiving notices to replace their plates as part of Phase Two of the state's Periodic Plate Replacement law passed by the Legislature in 1997.
About 744,000 vehicles will be affected by this requirement for 2001, which includes passenger vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, trailers and boat trailers, and trucks licensed for 26,000 pounds declared gross weight or less. Replacement plates cost $7 for a new set, $3.50 for a single plate and $2.50 for a single motorcycle replacement.
The law accomplished two separate things, according to Washington State Patrol spokesman Trooper Tom Foster.
"All plates were placed on a schedule so they would eventually have one standardized background which is recognizable and readable. Also, requiring regular plate replacement increases reflectivity, again making identification more easy, illuminating moving and parked vehicles, and ultimately increasing the safety of the motoring public," said Foster.
He also added as a reminder that any type of license plate cover is illegal. "We've seen many different covers, some tinted and some clear. But they are all illegal because they reduce the plate's reflective abilities."
Phase One included the replacement of the older green and white plates, and green and yellow plates. Nearly 700,000 plates have been replaced during 2000.
Phase Two brings other plates into the replacement plate cycle of seven years, with new or replaced plates issued in 2000 requiring replacement in 2007.The seven-year cycle was selected by the Department of Licensing based on the manufacturer's guarantee of five years for reflectivity and a review of other states' practices and experience. Five other states have adopted a seven-year replacement program cycle. Exceptions to the replacement program include: antique and collector vehicles, motor vehicles licensed for more than 26,000 pounds declared gross vehicle weight, and city, county and state government vehicles with "exempt" plates.
In addition, license plates on trailers with a combination (CMB) use class will be replaced when a change in ownership and/or use class occurs.
To find out when a plate was issued, vehicle owners can check the "Issue-Date" near the upper left hand corner of their registration.