USA Plate News
United States, Puerto Rico and Canada[edit source | edit]
Although license plates have only existed for just over one hundred years in the United States and Canada, they have developed a unique history that has undergone several periods and changes.
The first license plates in North America appeared in 1903 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Soon after, other states followed suit, with virtually every state having adopted a form of license plates by 1918.
The first license plates in the United States were made out of leather, rubber, iron and porcelain, painted on the front in usually two different colors—one for the background and one for the lettering. This scheme held true for most states until about 1920. The front of the plate would usually contain the registration number in large digits, and in smaller lettering on one side of the plate, the two- or four-digit year number, and an abbreviated state name. Each year, citizens were usually required to obtain a new license plate from the state government, which would have a different color scheme than the previous year, making it easier for police to identify whether citizens were current with their vehicle registration.
Even before 1920, some states had adopted the technique of embossing the metal plates with raised lettering and numbering, without porcelain, and applying paint all over the plate, directly onto the metal. Minnesota introduced some license plates during this period with three different years embossed into the plate, so that the plates were valid for three consecutive years (e.g., 1918, 1919, and 1920).
In the United States, license plates are issued by each state. The federal government issues plates only for its own vehicle fleet and for vehicles owned by foreign diplomats. In the United States, manyNative American tribal governments issue plates for their members, while some states provide special issues for tribal members. Within each jurisdiction, there may also be special plates for groups such as firefighters or military veterans, and for state, municipality, or province-owned vehicles.
The appearance of plates is frequently chosen to contain symbols or slogans associated with the issuing jurisdiction. Some of these are intended to promote the region. A few make political statements; for example, most plates issued in Washington, D.C. include the phrase "Taxation Without Representation" to highlight D.C.'s lack of a voting representative in the United States Congress. More recently, some states have also started to put a web address pertaining to the state (such as Pennsylvania, which posts the address of its tourism site). In some states (Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and some versions in Florida), the issuing county is listed at the bottom, while Kansas does so with a letter-coded registration sticker; Utah did so until 2003. Indiana county stickers are at the top.Alabama, Idaho, Montana, Ohio, South Dakota, Wyoming, some Nebraska and Oklahoma plates designate the county by number code (the latter with a letter) either in the plate number or registration sticker.
Most states use plates onto which the letters and numbers are embossed so that they are slightly raised above its surface. Several—Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa,Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee,Texas, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia—have moved to entirely digitally produced flat license plates. Several other U.S. states now use a color thermal transfer production process that produces a flat license plate for only short-run plates such as personalized license plates and special interest plates. The territory of Nunavut has recently introduced the first flat license plate in Canada.
The numbering system of license plates also varies among the jurisdictions. Some states issue a motorist a serial that stays with that person as long as they live in that state, while other states periodically issue new serials and completely rotate out any old ones. Several states do not regularly use certain letters — most commonly the letters I, O, and/or Q — in their plates, except on vanity plates, so as not to confuse observers with the numbers one and zero.
When a person moves from one state or province to another, they are normally required to obtain new license plates issued by the new place of residence. Some U.S. states will even require a person to obtain new plates if they accept employment in that state, unless they can show that they return to another state to live on a regular basis. The most prominent exceptions to this policy are active duty military service members, who legally do not change residence when they move to a new posting. Federal law specifically allows them to choose to either retain the state vehicle registration of their original residence or change registration to their state of assignment.
In the United States, 19 states – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia – do not require an official front license plate, nor do the U.S. Virgin Islands or the territory of Puerto Rico.In 2004 Puerto Rico established the designed of the United States plates and the requirements of the United States plates. In Nevada, front plates are optional if the vehicle was not designed for a front plate and the manufacturer did not provide an add-on bracket or other means of displaying the front plate. In Massachusetts, certain old rear-only plates are grandfathered, but newly issued registrations require both front and rear plates. Vehicles owned by the United States Postal Service, unlike other federally-owned vehicles, do not bear license plates, but rather a postal service number such as on the Grumman LLV.
In 1956, all North American passenger vehicle license plates, except for French-controlled St. Pierre and Miquelon, were standardized at a size of 6 in × 12 in (152.40 mm × 304.80 mm), although a smaller size is used for certain vehicle classes, such as motorcycles, and for the state of Delaware's historic alternate black and white plates, which are 5.25 in × 9.5 in (133.35 mm × 241.30 mm). The plates of Nunavut and Northwest Territories are shaped like a polar bear but bolt to the standard holes. Nunavut has created prototypes of standard license plates with various patterns distinct from those of the North West Territories.
Canadian Forces vehicles that travel on regular roads display licence plates. These vehicles have licence plates issued by theDepartment of National Defence. Domestic plates were issued by the DND after 1968.
In many U.S. states, license plates are made by prison inmates. Prison inmates in some Canadian provinces make licence plates.Because of this, colloquial terms include "license plate factories" for prison and "making license plates" for serving a prison sentence.