Thurston County licensing office issues temporary plates amid statewide shortage


Thurston County licensing offices have begun issuing temporary plates for passenger vehicles due to a statewide metal plate shortage.

The Thurston County Auditor's Office announced the indefinite change in a Tuesday news release.

"While we haven't heard for certain from the state Department of Licensing when metal plates will be available, we hope our customers are patient while we work through this," Auditor Mary Hall said.

The change should only affect passenger vehicle licensing customers, according to the release. Truck, trailer and motorcycle licensing customers should not be impacted.

The shortage was caused by the ongoing replacement of aging plate production equipment, said Rob Wieman, communications consultant for the state Department of Licensing.

The state Department of Licensing does not make the plates. People who are incarcerated make license plates in prison factories run by the state Department of Corrections, according to the Seattle Times.

Wieman said the state Department of Licensing is looking at mitigation strategies in the meantime.

"That may include contracting with an outside vendor to get plates until DOC is fully operational," Wieman said.

Temporary license plates are issued by the county Auditor's Office and eight licensing subagents throughout the county. The temporary plates are valid for 60 days and should prove more resilient than paper permits issued in previous years.

The state began issuing temporary license plates instead of paper permits last June in accordance with a 2022 state law.

The temporary plates are printed on "durable, weather-resistant paper" and displayed where metal plates should be rather than inside the back window, according to the state Department of Licensing.

Customers who already have a temporary plate that's about to expire can get another temporary plate at a licensing office; however, many times they need until metal plates becomes available again, Wieman said.


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