February 15, 2023

How Much Do IRP Plates Cost

The International Registration Plan (IRP) is how your state keeps track of who is driving where and how many miles owner-operators drive in other states. At the most basic level, it’s a way to license a commercial vehicle — just like licensing your personal vehicle every year — but it requires a bit more paperwork and the fees are usually higher.

However, not all owner operators are required to obtain IRP licensing plates and registration. It only applies to you if you drive into more than one jurisdiction to do your work. Let’s take a closer look at IRP requirements and costs.

Where to get your IRP plates

Before you can apply for your IRP plates, you first have to know which jurisdiction you’re in. Jurisdictions can be states, provinces (like in Canada), or even Washington D.C. Which jurisdiction you’re in is determined by where your main place of business is located.

In order to be considered your main place of business, a location has to meet a few conditions for the law to recognize it as legitimate business:

  • It needs to have at least one employer working at the location.
  • You, as the applicant, need to have your name on the lease or building agreement.
  • It must be where you keep your business records.
  • It must operate during typical business hours.

All motor carriers pay their IRP fees to their base location, also known as the base jurisdiction. Each state, or jurisdiction, will have their own process for how you apply and fill out the paperwork, so it’s important to check out your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle site to make sure you’re applying through the proper channels. By filling out your own state’s IRP forms, you won’t have to worry about registering your vehicle in multiple jurisdictions; they take care of that for you with the IRP plate.

Once the location has been established, you can apply for the IRP plates and start paying the assigned fee. The IRP plate fee is really a tax that the jurisdiction’s governing agency puts back into a variety of community transportation needs, such as road maintenance and inspections to ensure the roads you drive on stay safe (among other things).

From there, your jurisdiction will parse the money out to the other jurisdictions you visit. For example, if your base location is Northern Georgia but your business often takes your driving into South Carolina, then Georgia will distribute a portion of your IRP plate fee to South Carolina for you. That way, you don’t have to worry about trying to calculate and pay the correct amount of fees towards each state you drive in.

How much do states charge for IRP fees?

The total cost for IRP plates depends on several factors: your state’s rate, other states’ rates, the type of vehicle you’re driving, and your total mileage in each state or jurisdiction. You have to do a little math to figure it out, but don’t worry; it’s easy math you can do with a calculator.

An Example of Calculating IRP Rates

Let’s say you’re based in the D.C. area and your work takes you on the road to the neighboring states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. This means you would be responsible for paying fees in those three states and in your jurisdiction.

This table from Washington D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles website breaks down how the total annual fee would be calculated for each state:

States You Drove Into Total Miles Driven in Each State % of Total Mileage Your current annual fee with this state The IRP fee you will pay by state
D.C. 25,000 25% (0.25) X $2325.00 = $581.25
Delaware 25,000 25% (0.25) X $1390.00 = $347.50
Maryland 25,000 25% (0.25) X $1280.00 = $320.00
Virginia 25,000 25% (0.25) X $1328.00 = $332.00
 Total IRP Fee  = $1580.75

To calculate how much is owed to each state, you would

  1. Determine how many miles you drove within each state. You can get this info from your ELD or from your last 4 IFTA quarterly reports.
  2. Convert those miles driven into a percentage of the total miles you’ve driven in a year.
  3. Multiply the percentage by the current annual fee for the state. This will give you the total amount of fees owed to the state.

You can repeat this process to calculate the fees for each of the states you drive in, then add all of the state fees together to find out your total IRP fee amount for that year. In this example, your base jurisdiction, Washington D.C., would collect the total IRP fee from your company, but it wouldn’t keep all that fee money; instead, it would divvy out the specific amounts owed to each state based on how far you’ve traveled within each state’s borders.

IRP Costs Will Vary Annually

It’s important to note that IRP plate costs won’t stay the same from year to year since you’ll likely be driving different mileage amounts each year. You can also expect the rate to fluctuate anytime you start driving in a new state.

Also be aware that fees differ by state, so be sure to check out your own jurisdiction’s licensing site (usually this is the same as your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles site) or contact them through an online jurisdiction directory.

Does my vehicle require IRP plates?

There are two main factors that can help you determine if your vehicle needs IRP plates and licensing: weight and the number of axles.

If your motor vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds or it is more than 26,000 when you combine it with another type of vehicle, then you’ll need to get IRP plates.

The axle count is also important. Three axles? You need IRP plates, regardless of how much your vehicle weighs. Two axles? You need IRP plates only if your vehicle hits that 26,000 pound mark.

Additionally, while most vehicles need to be registered, some types of vehicles are exempt from IRP licensing. These include restricted farm plates, vehicles owned by the government, recreational vehicles, and school buses. There are also some some slight changes among states. For example, Utah and Idaho work together so that a driver hauling farm equipment on a farm-plated vehicle doesn’t need to get an IRP registration.

What else should carriers know?

One of the trickiest parts of IRP licensing is that the jargon for the IRP process can differ from state to state. For example, some states describe the driver and what they drive differently (interstate carrier, commercial vehicle licensing, motor carrier, heavy highway vehicle, commercial trucking business owner, etc.). It’s helpful to check your state’s website to see what terms they use.

Some states provide extra resources to help make the licensing process easier. For example, Montana’s IRP site offers drivers an IRP checklist while Colorado’s DMV site lists a few training videos and a list of FAQs about the IRPs. Be sure to check out the state website to find tips on how to simplify this process in your jurisdiction.

Finally, it’s extremely important that you keep accurate mileage records for how often you drive in each jurisdiction. That way, you have all the information you need in case you get audited. Be sure to check out your state’s IRP website to find out how long you should keep these records so you’re never caught unaware.

The Motor Carrier HQ trucking authority knows that your success drives us. This blog educates our visitors and other industry experts so that all of us are more equipped when we hit the road. Make sure to check out the Haulin’ Assets podcast to get tips about starting your own trucking company.

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