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Currently, vehicle registration and driver licensing are handled primarily by states in the US. However, aircraft registration and pilot certification is handled by the federal government. Could the federal government take over road vehicle registration and driver licensing from the states?

3 Answers 3

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The federal government could easily use the general welfare or interstate commerce clauses to justify vehicle registration and driver licensing.

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    Indeed, the fact that the federal government already does this for aircraft and for watercraft on the navigable waters of the United States, illustrates well that it has the authority to do so. The downside to this approach, in additional the the need to fund it and put bureaucracy in place to handle it and coordinate with local law enforcement, is that every automobile title dispute would give rise to a federal court lawsuit.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 28, 2023 at 21:27
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    I don't think they could use general welfare, the very wiki page you link to says "These clauses ... are not considered grants of a general legislative power to the federal government"
    – Shelvacu
    Dec 31, 2023 at 4:40
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The Federal Government issues license plates for its own vehicles and for vehicles owned by diplomats. The law was changed for diplomats about 40 years ago. Before that diplomatic plates were issed by states.

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it's all federal in

in Germany, driver's licenses are regulated by federal law, tags are in a federal database and your traffic infractions all get reported to the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (Federal Office of Motorized Traffic).

While the municipalities have offices to register your vehicle, those offices act based on federal law that delegates the power to issue tags from the federal level to the municipality level to the KFZ-Zulassungsstellen (motor vehicle registration office). The employees are municipal but report to the federal.

Driver's licenses and ID documents can only be made legally by the Bundesdruckerei (Federal Printing Service), and acquiring the driver's license requires a test following federal regulations. The power to conduct the tests has been delegated to Amtlich anerkannter Sachverständiger oder Prüfer für den Kraftfahrzeugverkehr (Officially recognized expert or examiner for motor vehicle traffic), who acts as a federal agent when you do your driving and traffic knowledge tests under their supervision.

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