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

florida license plates
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.

Noah Pransky

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.


  • Stephanie Kienzle

    December 30, 2019 at 8:08 am

    How about we finally put an end to all toll roads in Florida? Most of them were supposed to be only temporary until the state recouped its cost for the road. We’ve since paid for those roads many times over. Plus, we already pay enough in taxes to maintain the infrastructure, including and especially all the state expressways.

    These tolls are nothing but highway robbery – literally. It’s time to stop gouging Floridians already.

  • Mike King

    December 30, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Put transponders or build them into the plates!

  • Troy Ozarowicz

    December 30, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    “…but the best way for customers to reduce errors and billing delays is to use a SunPass transponder.”

    Typical. Required subsidizing of a business that has no other reason to exist than to have the government contract.
    Small government, indeed.

    • Stephanie Kienzle

      December 30, 2019 at 11:00 pm

      I wish there was a “like” button for comment. Spot on!

      • Troy Ozarowicz

        December 31, 2019 at 12:05 am

        Thank you. Now we just have to convince Joe Retired from rural economic-anxiety-doesn’t-mean-racist-ville.

  • Tim Ho

    December 30, 2019 at 10:28 pm

    Two observations: License Plates, I assume, were originally created to identify vehicles and their owners.
    Arriving in Florida with a law enforcement background some five years ago I was shocked to think of working here with all those specialty plates but more importantly with idiotic fonts that I can not read if it is an O or a Q on my own vehicle from a few feet away. (Just HOW is a crime victim /witness supposed to discern what I am unable to in bright daylight with no trauma involved?
    Second: I have received three letters in the mail from toll road folk wanting me to pay for vehicles that obviously had the “O” rather than the “Q” on their plates. Thanks Ms. Toll taker but I am a Shun-Piker .. I don’t “do” toll roads. I know all unbiased research proves tolling costs users much more (10%+) than simply charging excise taxes at the wholesale point of delivery … and using municipal bonds which are cheaper but that is another story.

    I believe Florida License Plates allow bushels of felons to escape discovery because no witness can figure out what is on the plate.

Comments are closed.


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