GSA automates license plate system

The General Services Administration, in a joint venture with the District of Columbia's Department of Corrections, is using technology to make the process of ordering license plates for federal vehicles faster, cheaper and easier.

In the first 65 years of license plate production at the D.C. government's Lorton Prison in northern Virginia, the manual process of tracking orders was never updated. Then, in 1996, GSA teamed with the Federal Fleet Policy Council (FEDFLEET), to speed up the ordering process. FEDFLEET is an interagency group that coordinates and reviews federal vehicle management programs and policies.

As a result of the reform effort, what once was a process that required 62 different forms and five hours of processing time today requires only one form and 2.5 minutes. The cost of processing an order has been cut from $52.28 to 71 cents.

The total price for programming and hardware for the new system was under $60,000, according to Mike Moses, a team leader in GSA's federal vehicle policy division. The program, Moses said, "saves more than that in one year's time."

Lorton Prison produces all the license plates for the federal government's fleet of about 600,000 vehicles. The prison processes an average of 2,600 license plate orders each year. The old process began with the manual entry of an order into a ledger book. Next, the order was checked to verify facts such as the ordering official's name and the number sequence of the license plate. Under this system, duplicate license plate numbers were often issued.

GSA helped Lorton officials and FEDFLEET devise a new form that allowed the ordering process to be completely automated. They also created a historical database of license plate numbers to be used in verifying new orders. The new database won't allow Lorton to issue duplicate tag numbers, Moses said.

To order a license plate for a federal vehicle today, officials simply mail or fax a request using a standard form. The total process, from the time the order is sent until the plate arrives, usually takes one week-twice as fast as under the old process.

In recognition of GSA's efforts to simplify the license plate system, Vice President Gore awarded the agency's Office of Governmentwide Policy one of his Hammer Awards last month.

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