Montana License Plates to Feature New, Larger Font

The Montana Department of Justice and the Montana Department of Corrections have collaborated to change license plates with an eye toward easier readability.  Soon, new license plates using a bolder, more legible font will be distributed through County Treasurer’s Offices across the state.  Motorists will notice their new license plates feature letters and numbers in a larger, bolder, slightly rounded font with a little more spacing between them, improving legibility for Montana’s law enforcement officers.

Over the past several months, the Law Enforcement Working Group, comprised of members of the Motor Vehicle Division, Montana Correctional Enterprises, the Montana Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies, recommended the font change and reviewed how samples looked on Montana’s plate designs, ensuring the background graphics didn’t interfere with the enlarged font.

Montana Highway Patrol Colonel Tom Butler said, “The old font was difficult to read, not only from law enforcement’s perspective, but from the public’s as well.  Our dispatchers noticed that when drivers called in traffic complaints, they had difficulty distinguishing 8’s from 9’s along with 5’s and 6’s.  The new font is quite a bit more defined and definitely more legible for all.”

The new license plates, which are manufactured at Montana Correctional Enterprises in Deer Lodge, are made possible thanks to new technology —  the Precision Printing System printer (PPS).  The PPS is the most advanced license printer available, capable of printing up to 100 plates per minute.  Gayle Lambert, administrator of Montana Correctional Enterprises at the Montana Department of Corrections, said, “We recently installed a state-of-the-art ink jet license plate printer that replaced the original printer purchased 14 years ago.  The new printer and updated technology allows us to produce a higher quality plate with greater legibility.  Our previous printer manufactured just short of ten million plates while in use, so it was definitely time for a replacement.”

The distribution process of the new plates to County Treasurers Offices began a few weeks ago, and according to Motor Vehicle Division Administrator Sarah Garcia, vehicle owners should start noticing the changes gradually while out on the road.  “Typically, anywhere from 700 to 8,000 license plates are ordered across Montana every business day,” Garcia said.  “It’ll probably take a month or so for County Treasurers to work through their old stock, and about five years before the rotation of the new plates is complete across the state.”

In a related effort to improve readability of vehicle information for Montana’s law enforcement officers, sticker tabs showing vehicle registration month and year will get a new look this fall.  Currently, the month and year of registration expiration are shown as an abbreviated month and year in black font against a white background (Sep 16 for example).  Based on recommendations from the Law Enforcement Working Group, registration expiration will now be shown numerically, with the numbers for the month in black on a white background, and the numbers for the year reversed in white font against a black background.  To see the new plates and tabs, visit:  https://dojmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/New-font-new-tab-2016.jpg.  The look of permanent tabs will not change.

Each year, approximately 840,000 license plates are printed in Montana in a wide variety of standard and specialty designs.  To view Montana’s 261 license plates options, visit https://dojmt.gov/driving/plate-designs-and-fees/.