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So you were driving down the highway the other day and noticed multiple trucks pulling semi-trailers that had license plates from Maine. The only problem is you don’t live anywhere near Maine. And the semi-truck trailers with Maine license plates didn’t look like they were hauling lobsters or potatoes all the way from the “Pine Tree State.” So what gives?

Why do so many semi-truck trailers have Maine license plates?

There are over 800,000 semi-truck trailers registered in Maine. That’s especially surprising, considering Maine only has 600,000 registered commercial trucks to pull those trailers! The truth is that Maine’s low registration fees and lax laws make it an attractive place to get trailer license plates–even if you don’t live there.

Birds-eye view of a parking lot full of semi-trucks and semi-truck trailers registered in Maine.
Semi-trucks | Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

According to the Providence Journal, there were 810,933 semi-truck trailers registered in Maine by 2016. This number doesn’t even include temporary registrations. And the number has likely risen in the past seven years.

But of all these semi-truck trailer license plates, only 26,605 are linked to a Maine mailing address. This means that the owners of 784,328 semi-truck trailers registered in Maine in 2016 had neither a home address nor a business address in the state. Said another way, only one out of 30 semi-truck trailers with Maine license plates belongs to a Mainer (Maine-iac?).

Why Maine? Not every state charges the same amount of money for semi-truck trailer registration. Want to register a semi-truck trailer in California? You’re looking at a $336 bill, minimum. Washington D.C? Try $404. And in Florida? $609.20 (DOT).

Maine charges $20 a year for a semi-truck trailer license plate. Opting for a longer-term registration can work out to even less per year.

There may be other cheap states, but Maine is especially lenient with out-of-state trailer owners. It not only allows you to register a trailer without so much as a local P.O. Box, but you can register up to 100 of them! That can add up to significant savings for a fleet owner.

Why does Maine make it easy to register semi-truck trailers?

The state of Maine may simply not have bothered to add unnecessary red tape to trailer registrations. Or it may have realized that out-of-state semi-truck trailer registrations are a significant source of income.

This is a vintage semi-truck with a custom chrome sleeper built by Alliance Truck group, parked in a field.
Semi-truck | Alliance Truck group

Most of the Maine DMV’s registration fees are reasonable. For example, if you live on one of Maine’s many islands and want to register an old car for island use exclusively, you’re looking at a $4 fee.

I used to live in Maine, and I am here to tell you the state’s philosophy toward government is “live-and-let-live.” This philosophy obviously extends to trailer registrations. That is why the government doesn’t hassle you about living in Maine, or even bringing your trailer to Maine for a local inspection.

According to my calculations, Maine collects over $15,000,000 a year for out-of-state trailer license plate registrations. It costs Maine something to stamp and send all those plates. But semi-truck trailer registrations are probably a nice source of income for a state which would otherwise have relatively few registrations because of its small population. Rumor has it that translates into at least $6 million going directly into Maine’s economy.

Where are the most semi-trucks registered?

While Maine is one of the top states where semi-truck trailers are registered, it is not home to the most semi-trucks. That distinction goes to California, followed by Texas, then Florida. You might be surprised to hear that Pennsylvania ranks fourth for most semi-trucks registered.

Next, find out why so many semi-trucks have Pennsylvania license plates, or hear from a truck driver why he chooses to run Maine plates in the video below: