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Florida’s insane number of license plates is costing FDOT millions

FDOT says it continues to work to improve its plate-reading capabilities.

“We have way too many license plates in Florida,” Michelle Schorsch proclaimed in a recent “He Said, She Said” podcast.

Her matter-of-fact statement referenced the running Tallahassee joke-that’s-not-a-joke of Rep. Jamie Grant (R-Auburn University) trying to convince his colleagues to authorize a new Florida tag honoring his out-of-state alma mater. Still, Schorsch’s opinion also turns out to be a fact.

Florida has way too many license plates, with sources telling Florida Politics it’s causing the state to lose millions of dollars because SunPass cameras have trouble reading some of them.

One of FDOT’s lingering problems with its SunPass system is the high volume of Toll-by-Plate (TBP) transactions that have to be manually-reviewed by workers because the not-yet-perfect auto-recognition system struggles to discern between all of the different kind of tags on vehicles driving Florida toll roads.

According to FDOT, 139 million TBP transactions had to be manually reviewed last year — approximately 42% of all TBP transactions. With more than 120 different tag styles in Florida alone, it comes as no surprise.

It wasn’t until 2018 that the state standardized a single font across all new tags, but millions of vehicles still have old Florida plates, while millions more have new tags that still come in a plethora of colors and designs.

That reduces the system’s confidence in automatically-reading tags, necessitating the costly manual review process. It could also increase the number of erroneous bills sent out to vehicle owners, with charges related to mysterious vehicles driving toll roads they’ve never traveled.

According to FDOT, the 190 million TBP transactions automatically-processed had a 99.97% accuracy rate (approx. 57,000 errors/year). The additional 139 million TBP transactions that required additional screening were processed with 99.95% accuracy (approx. 69,500 errors/yr).

But those reviews are not without significant cost and delays in billing.  

The state also learned this fall the reviews could create other problems when one of the outside contractors hired to review video transactions was hacked, creating additional account disruptions.

FDOT says it continues to work to improve its plate-reading capabilities, but the best way for customers to reduce errors and billing delays is to use a SunPass transponder.

Written By

Noah Pransky is a multiple award-winning investigative reporter, most recently with the CBS affiliate in Tampa. He’s uncovered major stories such as uncovering backroom deals in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium and other political investigations. Pransky also ran a blog called Shadow of the Stadium, giving readers a deep dive into the details of potential financial deals and other happenings involving the Tampa Bay- area sports business.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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