A new state program offering personalized license plates for trucks has transportation firms rushing to license their rigs in Indiana and could be a big boost to the state's status as a trucking hub, according to the Indiana Business Journal on October 6. The program, launched this spring, could save transportation firms licensing their fleet in Indiana millions of dollars annually, draw more trucking business here, and put hundreds of thousands of additional dollars into the state's highway fund. The personalized plate — the first of its kind in the nation — should cut down on plate theft. Plates are often stolen from one truck or trailer and put on another either to avoid licensing costs or to disguise a stolen vehicle, state officials said. Indiana Department of Revenue figures show more than 5,000 Indiana truck plates were lost or stolen last year. "We run about 7,000 trailers and we lose 100 to 150 plates to theft every year," said Stephen Russell, chairman and CEO of locally based Celadon Group Inc. "It's a real pain in the back side, and a real financial burden." "Theft is a big problem with truck plates and it's only getting worse," said Kenny Cragen, Indiana Motor Truck Association president. "This program has the potential to revolutionize the industry." Indiana's International Registration Plan Logo Plates Program has state officials eyeing the possibility of passing Illinois and Oklahoma to become the nation's leading truck licensing state. Regardless of their headquarters locations, interstate trucking firms often license their trucks where it's cheapest and most convenient. Some of the nation's largest trucking firms wasted little time moving licensing to Indiana. Already, Allied Van Lines Inc., Atlas Van Lines Inc., Celadon Group Inc., FedEx Corp., Global Van Lines Inc., North American Van Lines, Penske Truck Leasing, Ryder Truck Rental Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc. have licensed trucks using Indiana's new program. Celadon is the only Indiana-based company among them. UPS, the first company to take advantage of the program, licensed 5,200 trailers and 600 tractors in Indiana this year, double the number it did in 2003. UPS, which is headquartered in Atlanta, now licenses 90 percent of its fleet in Indiana. "The benefit of this program to us was evident on a number of levels," said UPS spokesman Dan McMackin. "Not only does it cut down on plate theft potential, we think it helps with branding. These plates look good on the truck and anytime you can extend your brand, we think that's good for business." "We have several more companies with huge [fleets] looking to plate in Indiana," said Jim Poe, Indiana Department of Revenue Motor Carrier Division administrator. "If those fall into place, Indiana would have the largest licensed fleet in the nation." At an average cost of $1,800 per semi-truck license, the increase in new licenses will generate hundreds of thousands of dollars. The money will likely be used for highway improvements and other transportation upgrades, state Department of Revenue officials said. There's no extra charge for the personalized plate.