State investigating issues with new Tennessee license plates

Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 10:34 PM EST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - If you’ve renewed your tags lately you might be one of thousands who picked up the new dark blue Tennessee license plate.

However, you might have to replace it soon. The Tennessee Department of Revenue is getting reports that license plate cameras are having issues reading those new plates.

Almost 50,000 of the new plates are on vehicles across Shelby County. The state is expecting to replace millions of plates across the state by the end of the year.

Lakeland Commissioner Wesley Wright is calling on the state to stop Tennesseans from buying these new plates.

“I think something needs to be taken care of expeditiously,” said Commissioner Wright.

He says he learned some license plate cameras may not be able to read them at night. He says he found out about the readability issue at a meeting Thursday.

“That’s not just an issue for Lakeland, that’s throughout because Shelby County alone has about 600 plus Flock cameras,” said Commissioner Wright. “I asked other sources and I found out, it’s not just Flock, it’s cameras that are software based.”

According to the Shelby County Clerk’s Office, nearly 50,000 plates have been issued as of February 11. Wright also says the plates don’t meet Department of Transportation reflectivity standards.

“That’s the biggest problem because they’re distributing these things at a cost and so many have been distributed and there’s going to be a lot more throughout the year,” said Commissioner Wright. “This is something I think the state should get in front of and be transparent.”

The Tennessee Department of Revenue issues license plates. The Director of Communications Kelly Cortesi sent a statement to Action News 5:

“We are aware of this issue, and we are engaging in conversations with our partners at the Tennessee Department of Safety to more fully understand it. It would be premature to discuss any further actions we may take until we fully vet the concerns raised.”

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office uses flock cameras as an investigative tool. Officials there say they alerted Flock Safety, the company SCSO leases cameras from, that cameras are scanning plates but occasionally confusing them with designs from other states.

The Head of Public Relations for Flock Safety Holly Beilin sent a statement to Action News 5:

“Our customers in Tennessee have informed Flock Safety that while the characters on the new plates are being read correctly, the state identification may need to continue to improve. We operate in 40+ states and know how to rapidly adjust our software and machine learning to capture this new plate design at the same high level of accuracy as that of the previous designs.”

The Department of Revenue says 400,000 plates have been issued throughout Tennessee. They expect to replace 5.5 million plates by the end of 2022.

Action News 5 also asked the Department of Revenue how much replacing plates would cost and if taxpayers would have to pay for them. They told us it would be premature to discuss further actions until they investigate the concerns.

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