Current number plates: 2001 to present
By the late 1990s the number of available registrations was again starting to run out, so the current number plates scheme was needed. The car sales industry had been repeatedly pushing for two registration changes per year as sales were heavily skewed to August when the plate date changed. This was taken into account and the “Current” registration format was introduced.
This time an attempt was made to create a number plate format specifically to:
- Be easier to read.
- Be easier to work out the age of the vehicle.
- Support two age changes each year.
- Be easier to remember.
- Have enough combinations to last the intended period of use.
- Still fit into the existing plate dimensions.
It was hoped that a logically designed layout would help people remember plates involved in accidents and crime and thus help the law enforcement authorities. Our current car registration system was introduced to Great Britain in 2001. Reading from left to right, the seven characters of the Current plate format are formed from:
- Two letters often called the local memory tag; this shows the area of issue.
- Two numbers. These show the age of the vehicle and changes twice a year in March and September.
- A space.
- A three letter sequence.
Northern Ireland does not use Great Britain’s “Current” registration format. Instead it operates its own unique system.
The plate’s region of issue is denoted by the first letter of the local memory tag, whilst the second identifies the local registration office. If a vehicle is involved in an accident or crime the local memory tag is usually what is remembered by witnesses. With this code and the vehicle type and colour it is relatively simple for the police to narrow down suspect vehicles to a more manageable list, without having to know the full registration.
For plates issued from March to August the vehicle age code is simply the last two digits of the year, e.g. “05” for 2005 or “11” for 2011. If issued from September to February of the following year the code has 50 added to it, e.g. “55” for 2005 or “61” for 2011. With this new current number plates scheme a buyer can tell the year of a car without having to look it up.
There is no particular significance to the final three letter sequence beyond that of distinguishing vehicles registered in the same place during the same period. The letters I and Q are excluded from this sequence, as are combinations that may the DVLA determines may appear offensive in English or other languages.
This scheme should have sufficient numbers to run until 2050.
Registrations that happen to have a combination of characters that are particularly appealing (for example resembling a name or word) are reserved by the DVLA each year for subsequent auction.
Vehicles registered under previous numbering systems continue to retain their original car registration plates. Subject to certain conditions, registration plates can be transferred between vehicles by the vehicle owner. Some of these transfers involve tens of thousands of pounds changing hands due to the desirability of a specific number plate.