Believe it or not, the state of Louisiana is low on the mix of letters and numbers that go on license plates.
“At some point you are going to run out of numerical combinations,” Stephen Campbell, commissioner of the state Office of Motor Vehicles, said Wednesday.
That point is less than a year away, officials said, so plans are in place to redo the formula.
“Our sequence now is letter, letter, letter and number, number, number,” said State Police Lt. J.B. Slaton.
“We think in the next 12 months, the next year, we anticipate rotating the sequence and changing it to number, number, number and letter, letter, letter, which should give us another 20 years to issue those configurations,” he said.
Exactly when the change will begin is unclear. Slaton said it could be as soon as eight months from now.
The state has about four million registered cars and trucks.
It offers roughly 250 prestige plates, such as those for LSU — a longtime top seller — plus the Saints and a wide range of causes, which get some of the proceeds.
Talks on proposed new specialty plates are almost daily fare during legislative sessions.
Past debates, including one on the first day of the 2014 session, have focused on prestige plates for the late artist George Rodrigue, Master Gardeners, U.S. Army Rangers and winners of the Distinguished Service Cross.
What the state’s rank-and-file plate looks like has triggered furious legislative debates in Louisiana and other states.
Campbell said the letter/number sequence is not the only change in store.
“We have all kinds of big plans for the next governor,” he said.
“We are thinking outside the box,” Campbell said, including better use of technology.
“Look at the way Louisiana license plates are produced now, at the state prison, and by a machine invented in the early 1900s at Angola,” he said.
“If you look at plates from other states, you see many states going to a flat plate,” Campbell said. “But again that is down the road.”
In some cases, he said, up-front costs to change how license plates are produced will produce long-term savings for taxpayers.
However, all that is on hold until Gov. Bobby Jindal’s successor takes office in January. “That is not something that can be done right now,” Campbell said.
And what happens after another 20 years of the state issuing license plates?
“I think there are any number of sequences we could use,” Slaton said.