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Aluminum shortage causes hiccup in Montana license plate production

Posted at 6:01 PM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 20:50:06-04

There seem to be a lot of shortages in goods these days, and now consumers can add aluminum to the list.

That includes the Montana Department of Justice, which is in charge of making license plates for drivers statewide.

“The department went everywhere they could to try to get that product,” Yellowstone County Treasurer Sherry Long said Friday.

Montana license plates are produced at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. Inmates manufacture about 750,000 license plates a year, supplying all 56 counties across Montana. The aluminum shortage means only a fraction of these plates is left in DMVs.

“We’re looking at about, and this is a rough estimate, of about maybe 5,000 standard plates left, and we won’t get any more in stock either,” Long said.

License plates are produced with an aluminum backing with vinyl pressed on top. Motor Vehicle Divisions plan on dispersing just the vinyl top as a temporary solution.

“There’s this vinyl that overlays onto the aluminum. You will get the vinyl plastic, not on the aluminum. They plan to put those in a little plastic sleeve like you would with your temporary tags,” Long said.

The license plates won’t be as sturdy, but drivers don’t seem to mind.

“As long as we still have license plates, and we’re getting it accomplished, I’m not too upset about it being vinyl,” said motorist Diego Garcia while waiting outside the licensing office at the Yellowstone County Courthouse.

Anyone who receives a temporary license will get an aluminum replacement plate once regular production resumes.