Out-of-State Plates: KSL Investigates Trucking Trend Driving Revenue To Idaho

Apr 29, 2021, 10:48 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:57 pm

LAYTON, Utah — Layton resident Alan Curtis noticed it for years driving back and forth from his farm in Cache County: big trucks with Utah plates on the front, but Idaho license plates on the trailer.

“I see it almost every trip,” Curtis told KSL Investigators. He reached out wanting to know why so many were licensed in Idaho. “I wanted to have it investigated and see what the heck is going on, because we need those tax dollars for our own Utah roads.”


It’s a question KSL Investigators have received many times over the last year, with more people noticing the anomaly. Most expressed similar concerns as Curtis: is Utah losing out on tax revenue for the roads these trucks are using?

Saving Time and Money

We took the question to Rick Clasby, executive director of the Utah Trucking Association. “Obviously, the trucking industry will look to save money where they can,” he said, “and more importantly than that, maybe even, is efficiency.”

Clasby said registering trailers in Idaho appeals to many companies looking to save time and money because the state offers the North American Permanent Trailer Plate (NAPP). A one-time registration fee of about $106.75 lasts the lifetime of the trailer.

The NAPP does not require a business to be based in Idaho to take advantage of this registration.

In Utah, average trailer registration costs less, $95.12, but companies must renew the plate every year. Utah does offer a permanent plate, where registration fees are paid once. However, property taxes are still required to be paid on the trailer annually.

Clasby acknowledged licensing a big fleet could become expensive in Utah, sending more companies north of the Utah border.

“The state could be plating some of those tractors and trailers, and so they’re losing revenue by not doing so. To what extent, I don’t know,” he said.

Clasby explained truck trailer registrations vary greatly, because of how they’re used.

“Trailers don’t always reside where the tractor does,” he said. “We’re an interstate business… so sometimes the plating and licensing occurs in a different state than where the primary source of business is, and that’s because they have terminals or business in that state.”

To get an idea of how often that happens, the KSL Investigators sat at a truck stop in Brigham City. Over 45 minutes, we observed 66 trucks, primarily looking at trailer plates. Of these, 14 (21%) had Idaho license plates on the trailer. Only four trucks had Utah plates on the back end. The vast majority (73%) were from states other than Utah or Idaho.

Revenue Drives to Idaho

Since 2015, interstate trailer registrations have fallen 46.7% in Utah. There were 14,642 registrations in 2020.

A public records request of the Idaho Transportation Department showed 3,860 trailers owned by Utah companies were registered in Idaho last year, bring that state a total $382,635 in registration fees.

Utah saw $1,392,823.17 in revenue from interstate trailer registration and valuation fees last year. If these trailers had been registered in Utah, the Beehive state would have received about $367,163 more in 2020 trailer registrations.

Monte Roberts, director of the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is not overly concerned about this potential loss in revenue. “I think it is a misnomer that people think they’re not paying their fair share of taxes for the wear and tear on the roads.”


He explained trailers make up a small portion of all commercial registration fees. It’s actually the truck, or power unit, that contributes the most financially. Since 2015, Utah has seen a 27% increase in interstate power unit registration. Last year these power units brought in $13,090,441.90 in registration and valuation fees, roughly nine times that of the trailer units.

Roberts says regardless of where the truck is registered, Utah gets its fair share of those fees based on how many miles the truck drives on Utah roads. It is part of the International Registration Plan, or IRP.

“If my established place of business is Utah, and I drive miles in Idaho and Colorado and Wyoming, I have to report that,” said Roberts. “It’s through… a tax based on the miles I drive in each one of those states.”

In fiscal year 2020, the Utah Department of Transportation reported 8,582,946 trucks passed through Utah’s eight ports of entry. This includes all commercial trucks over 10,000 pounds, including construction equipment and box trucks.

Change in Status Quo? Not Likely

Roberts said losing trailer registrations doesn’t mean a huge loss for state revenue. It may have a larger impact on individual counties.

Two thirds of the total annual fees are valuation fees, which are county property taxes assessed where the business is located. If all Utah-based companies decided to register their trailers out-of-state, “The property tax that goes to those counties would basically be gone,” said Roberts.

Doing the math based on average valuation fees, Utah counties collectively lost $239,519 from those 3,860 trailers that were registered in Idaho last year.

Roberts does not see the current policy changing, as prior legislative efforts have not been successful. And he fears mandating Utah trailer registrations for Utah-based companies could have a larger negative effect, as companies may decide to relocate their business to another state.

“I say be careful about pushing this too far, because it’ll likely do nothing but reduce the number of trailers registered in Utah and lose out on the property tax that they’re currently paying,” he said.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

A bus driver fills up at a gas station in Brooklyn on August 11, 2022 in New York City. While fuel ...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Ways you can save money at the gas pump

Inflation remains high for several reasons and one of the biggest is tied to gas prices. But you can bring down the price you pay with some relatively simple changes in your driving habits.
3 days ago
KSL’s Matt Gephardt fuels up his minivan to determine how much gas Google Maps’ eco-friendly ro...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Can Google’s eco-friendly routes really save you gas money?

Gas prices have edged down from their record highs, but they are still a far cry from being affordable for many Utah families. So, when Google rolled out a new feature for its Maps navigation app that says it can save you money on gas by using suggested eco-friendly routes, the KSL Investigators decided to put it to the test.
4 days ago
FILE: Back-to-school shopping (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Saving $ on back-to-school supplies with inflation

With inflation running amok this year, parents are tackling big price hikes on top of the stress. Fortunately, there are ways they can still save money.
7 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

KSL Investigators help bank customer regain access to his money after fraud incident

KSL Investigators help a fraud victim gain access to his bank account after nearly a year of being locked out.
10 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

What are the rules for airline travel credits?

After canceling a beach vacation to Hawaii, a Utah woman believes she has $1,400 in flight credits. Ongoing flight cancellations have plagued the summer travel season, and a lot of travelers are being made whole with flight credits rather than refunds.
11 days ago
FILE PHOTO - Shown are a smartphone and computer....
Matt Gephardt

Can a company pull the rebate runaround?

When a West Valley City woman took up Verizon on a rebate offer to upgrade but could not get the rebate, she contacted the KSL Investigators for help.
17 days ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
Out-of-State Plates: KSL Investigates Trucking Trend Driving Revenue To Idaho