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Prorate Backing Plates & Stickers

Prior to 1957 most trucks traveling in interstate commerce were required to buy license plates from every state through which they traveled, even if they were not making pickups or deliveries in those states, and no matter how little time they spent on the state’s roads. As a consequence, these vehicles paid multiple registration fees with little to show for it, and had multiple license plates plastered all over them.

Officials from New Mexico and eight other western states arrived at a solution whereby payment of registration fees would be based on the number of miles driven in each state as a proportion of the total number of miles driven during the year.  Moreover, rather than having plates from multiple states, a truck would have a plate from its home state, plus a prorate backing plate, which was a generic blank plate consisting of a grid of sticker boxes separated by raised (embossed) lines. Each other state where the vehicle operated would supply a special prorate sticker to be placed in one of the sticker boxes, and the registration fees in each state would be prorated according to the number of miles driven there, as a proportion of the vehicle’s total miles for the year. The grid appearance of the prorate backing plate gave rise to several nicknames for the tag, including “bingo board” and “waffle plate.”

The stickers applied to the backing plates carried designations as to the type of vehicle licensed. As the technical name for the “truck” or “power unit” pulling a trailer is “tractor” (hence, the term “tractor-trailer”), their stickers were typically imprinted “TRACTOR” or “POWER.” Stickers for trailers and semi-trailers were imprinted “TRAILER.” Sometimes, but not always, the word “PRORATE” was printed on the sticker as well. 
 
 
         
                   
                     
                     
                   
                     
 
 
Photo Credits: All backing plates and stickers courtesy Eric Tanner, except: 1962 and 1963 Power courtesy Tom Allen; 1962 and 1963 Trailer, 1964 Tractor, 1965 Power courtesy Pete Madsen, 1970 and 1972 Power by Bill Johnston.
 

 

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