While the Iowa Department of Transportation is not looking to change the design of vehicle license plates, the agency is looking at flipping things around so the letters will come first on the plates and then the numbers.
The director of the D.O.T.’s motor division, Mark Lowe, says the three numbers now come first on a plate, followed by the three letters, but they will run out of new combinations by 2012.
Lowe says some people hold onto their license plates for a long time, so the number sequence stays with them, while others get a new plate when they get a different car. He says they take a number combination out of circulation and don’t re-assign it if someone gets a new plate, and that’s why they are running out of combinations.
Lowe says they didn’t reissue the letter/number combinations because it made it hard to keep track of things. He says when the letter-number process was started they didn’t have the computerized systems that they have now to be able to keep track of it. Lowe says when they switch to the new letters-first system, they will be able to look at it and see if they want to re-issue numbers.
Lowe says they’ll continue assign the letter/number combinations randomly once they make the switch. Lowe says the assignment of the letters rules out certain phrases that may be spelled out by the letters, but he says otherwise it’s a random process to determine which combinations are assigned. The state current has some 4.1 million license plates in circulation.