State releases memo on testing new TN license plates

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 10:28 PM EDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - New developments in the controversy over Tennessee’s new dark blue license plates.

A new memo reveals testing that was done to find out if changes to the paint formula would help license plate cameras read them better. Commissioners with the Department of Revenue and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security released the memo they sent to Tennessee’s Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Gibson.

The memo details testing done on several plate samples last month. They say the contrast on the new Tennessee plates is “not ideal” for some license plate camera systems.

According to the memo, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers began testing different plate samples in February. On February 15, troopers tested 18 black and yellow plates. Five different license plate camera systems were used.

Only two brands could recognize all the plates tested, System A, a Motorola-Vigilant camera system contracted by the state and System B. State officials would not release the names of any other systems used in the testing. The memo says the plate with 75% black and 15% yellow paint had the most accurate reads.

On February 27, troopers tested five state specialty plates of the new design in 35%, 85%, 90% and 95% black paint. Systems A and B read all five plates. Systems C and E read none. System D was out of order, according to the memo.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office uses license plate cameras from Flock Safety. It’s also not clear if Flock Safety was one of the systems involved in testing.

Lakeland Commissioner Wesley Wright says Flock Safety did adjust their software and now their cameras read the new plates. He hopes the state will move quickly to acknowledge any other issues with license plates in the future.

“I hope in the future with other situations that they’ll be a little more quick and efficient and transparent about an error and it wouldn’t require the ingenuity of private companies to find work-arounds,” said Commissioner Wright.

The state has also submitted its standard, personalized and “In God We Trust” plates to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators for further review.

As of this week, the state has made over two million plates. More than one million have been distributed. The Department of Revenue says they still plan to distribute 5.5 million plates this year.

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