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Vehicle Number Plates in India – All you need to know

A vehicle number plate is a combination of alphabetical letters and numerical digits issued by a district RTO (Regional Transport Office) which is to be mandatorily placed in the front and the back of the vehicle.

The main reason for a vehicle to be provided with a number plate is for it to be uniquely identifiable and made traceable whenever needed. Take the case when a vehicle driver decides to jump the traffic lights, the vehicle number plates can be used to trace the vehicle back to its owner and the Pixuate platform is uniquely capable of detecting the vast variety of Indian number plates.

And have you ever wondered what the different colors on a number plate or the different patterns/combinations imply?

We have 8 different (color combinations) types of number plates in India. What do these types and colors represent? Here you go –

  • White number plate with black lettering- 

Most common types of vehicle registration plates. Cars with these number plates are solely used for private purposes or non-commercial purposes.

  • Yellow number plate with black lettering- 

These vehicle registration plates can only be used for commercial purposes such as taxis, cabs, or trucks. A driver must have a commercial driving permit to drive such vehicles.

  • Black number plate with yellow lettering- 

These number plates are very popular in luxury hotel transport as well as the rental or self-driven car segment. The advantage of this type is that cars with these plates can ply as commercial vehicles without the driver having to own a commercial driving permit.

  • Green number plate with white lettering- 

These number plates belong to electric cars or EVs (like Tata Tigor Electric or Nexon EV). Electric buses, as well as commercial electric vehicles, use these.

  • Red number plate with white lettering 

Symbolizes a brand new car that has a temporary vehicle registration plate and is yet to get a permanent one (issued by the RTO). These kinds of temporary vehicle registration come with 1-month validity and the rules regarding temporary vehicle registration plates vary from one state to another. Some Indian states do not permit vehicles with temporary number plates to be driven on roads.

  • Blue number plate with white lettering- 

This is issued only to vehicles reserved for foreign diplomats. These number plates bear alphabets such as DC (Diplomatic Corps), CC (Consular Corps), UN (United Nations), etc. These license plates do not bear a state code; instead, they come with the country code of the diplomat. 

  • Number plate with an upward-pointing arrow

Military vehicles that are registered with the Ministry of Defence in New Delhi use these types of plates. This registration plate has an upward pointing arrow at the first or after the second character, known as Broad Arrow. The digits succeeding the arrow denote the year in which the vehicle was procured. The next is the base code, followed by the serial number. The letter ending after the serial number indicates the class of the vehicle.

  • Red number plate with the emblem of India

This type of plate is used by the President of India and the Governors of various states. A very special kind of number plate and comes with the emblem of India branded in golden color.

Now, let’s get to know what are the different components of a vehicle number plate as per the Motor Vehicles Act of India.

The first part / first two letters, of a vehicle number plate, indicate the state or union territory in which the motor vehicle has been registered. If the vehicle has been registered in the state of Karnataka, the first two alphabets of the vehicle number plate will be ‘KA’. 

The next two digits after the first two letters in the number plate refer to the district in which the vehicle was registered. Each district in a state is assigned its own sequential number. This is the very reason why the government has set up Regional Transport Office (RTO) at every district level in the country. 

The third part of the vehicle number plate is the very component of the number plate that makes every vehicle unique. The four-digit number sequence is different for each vehicle. If there arises a case where no unique numbers are left to assign, alphabets are used by the respective RTOs to replace the last digit. 

The fourth and the last part of a vehicle number plate is an oval symbol in which the letters ‘IND’ are written to signify that the vehicle has been registered in India. In the case of High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP) the oval symbol also includes a hologram made of chromium on the top of it which resembles a ‘Chakra’. HSRP was introduced in 2005 to reduce the stealing of vehicles. Although the inclusion of chromium hologram has been made mandatory by the government for high-security vehicles, it has still to be implemented in several states.

High-Security Registration Plates (HSRP) were introduced by the Indian Govt. to stop vehicle thefts, as criminals will not be able to exchange the number plates with the new one as the ownership and control of those plates is entrusted only with the Indian Government which helps the respective authorities to keep a tab on the growing of vehicle thefts in India.

There can also be some slight differences or variations in the car number plate formats. In certain Indian states, the initial 0 of the district court is substituted from the vehicle number plate through a letter. These letters represent the class of the vehicle. 

Here is the list of the letters and the corresponding type of vehicles:

  • C – SUVs and Cars
  • E – all vehicles which run on electric power
  • P – vehicles carrying passengers like buses, etc.
  • R – three-wheeler vehicles or rickshaws
  • S – two-wheeler vehicles
  • T – vehicles carrying tourists
  • Y – vehicles that are used for hire
  • V – all the pickup trucks and vans

The system of vehicle number plate coding has evolved from time to time in India, and with the ever-increasing number of new vehicles coming to Indian roads, this is said to evolve faster than ever. 

Example – The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Govt of India had recently started vehicle registration under BH-series (Bharat-series) number plates for non-transport vehicles. The BH-series has been introduced to promote ease of mobility in the nation. Currently, defense sector personnel, government employees & private-sector employees with offices in more than 4 states or Union territories can avail this series, as these people often need to travel from one to state and reside in another for a very long period of time.

At Pixuate we are building a unified platform for vehicular analytics and our platform is capable of reading all the number plates new and old. Any new number plate introduced can be detected by our AI platform, we are one of the very first platforms to be ready to identify the BH number plate system.

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