Aluminum shortage forces NC DMV to suspend license plate replacement plan

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — A worldwide shortage of aluminum has forced the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles to indefinitely suspend a program that replaces license plates older than six years.

The move is being done to ensure there is enough material to produce first-time plates.

The DMV normally produces between 400 and 500 first-time plates a day, officials said. But the older plate replacement program, which was passed into law by the General Assembly, caused this year’s figure to increase about 10 times that number.

North Carolina DMV officials said more than 640,000 replacement plates were made in the first four months of this year, with another 1.4 million projected for the rest of 2021.

Corrections Enterprises, which handles the plate production, has enough aluminum on hand to make around 160,000 plates, with another shipment of metal expected in mid-May.

The replacement plates were automatically sent to customers when they renewed their registration of the older plates online or by mail. Customers who renewed at a local License Plate Agency office received their plates at that visit. There is no customer charge for getting the new plate.

Officials said there is no timetable for when the issuance of replacement plates will resume. If the suspension continues into late 2021, it is likely that the rest of phase 1 of the program will be handled in 2022 and phase 2 moving back a year to 2023.

Phase 1 of the replacement program covers regular vehicle and motorcycle license plates. The second year is for older specialty plates, including personalized plates, commercial, permanent, municipal and state-owned, for-hire, dealers, trailers and farm vehicles.

The plate replacements were originally supposed to start July 1, 2020 but were pushed to 2021 amid the pandemic.