Vehicle registration plates of Singapore
In general, every motor vehicle in Singapore has a vehicular registration number. Two colouring schemes are in use: the black on white(front) with black on yellow(rear) scheme or the more popular white on black scheme. The number plate has to be made of a reflective plastic or metallic with textured characters made of black (for white-yellow) or white or silver (for black ones). No standardised typeface is used and all are based on the Charles Wright number plate typeface used in the UK, from thinner looking variants used commonly by SBS buses, taxis and goods vehicles, and even the FE-Schrift font used in Germany can sometimes, though rarely, be seen - though this is prohibited by LTA.
A typical vehicle registration number comes in the format of SBA 1234 A:
- S - Vehicle class ("S", with some exceptions, stands for a private vehicle since 1984)
- BA - Alphabetical series ("I" and "O" are not used to avoid confusion with "1" and "0")
- 1234 - Numerical series
- A - Checksum letter ("F", "I", "N", "O", "Q", "V" and "W" are never used as checksum letters; absent on special government vehicle plates and events vehicle plates)
Types of numbers
Private car licence plate numbers began in the early 1900s when Singapore was one of the four Straits Settlements, with a single prefix 'S', then adding a suffix letter S 'A' to S 'Y', but skipping a few like S 'H' and S 'Z' (reserved for taxis and buses), S 'D' (reserved for municipal vehicles), and S 'G' for goods vehicles large and small. No changes were made when Singapore became independent in 1965. There was no checksum letter, for example, SS1234, similar to vehicle registration plates of Malaysia. When the checksum letter was implemented, these plate numbers were given checksum letters as well, for example SS1234 became SS1234K.
When 'S' was exhausted at SY, in January 1972, Private cars started with E, Motorbikes with A and Goods Vehicles under 3 tonnes with Y. E was followed by EA, EB with the letters EC in 1973 up to EZ. From 1984, the "S" series of number plates was launched again, but now with two serial suffix letters, starting from SBA. Currently, as of this writing, the SKM series is in issue for private cars.
Other classes of vehicles have registration numbers beginning with specific letters:
- A_ series: Motorcycles (used until 1980)
- CB series: Company or school buses
- F_ series: Motorcycles [Eg. FA-FZ], this series of m/cycle plate was used till late 2005
- FB_ series: Motorcycles [Eg. FBA, FBB...], this series of m/cycle plate started the end of December 2005
- G _ _ series: Light Goods vehicles (class 3) [Eg. GA-GZ]
- GB _ series: Light Goods vehicles (class 3) [Eg. GBA, GBB...], this series of goods vehicle plate was introduced later from the year 2010 onwards
- P series: Private buses (PA, PB, PC, PH, PZ were used to separate Private bus, Pte Hire etc., subsequently they were not issued and all are issued under PA
- Q _ _ series: Company vehicles (No longer issued, company car are now issued with "S" series number plate instead, similar to private car)
- SH_ series: Taxis or Street Hire vehicles (Currently issuing SHF)
- W_ series: Engineering Plant vehicles (Class 5) (Currently issuing WC)
- X_ series: Very Heavy Goods vehicles (Class 5/Prime movers) - not constructed to carry any load (Currently issuing XD)
- TR_ series: Trailer (Currently issuing TRC)
- Y_ series: Heavy Goods vehicles (class 3/4/5) (Currently issuing YN)
In addition, the following are controlled for specific types of vehicles, including:
- CSS: City Shuttle Service buses
- LTA: Land Transport Authority, formerly known as ROV, Registry of Vehicles (Enforcement Officers)
- MID: Singapore Armed Forces vehicles (post suffix with up to 5 digits before it), originally stood for Ministry of Interior and Defence ex: 12345MID (General ranks are provided with two-digit MID plate staff cars)
- MP: Vehicles operated by the Singapore Armed Forces Military Police Command (formally SAFPU prefix)
- PU: Tax-exempt, restricted for exclusive use (with permission) on the island of Pulau Ubin
- QX: Emergency & Law-enforcement agencies (Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, etc.)
- QY: Quasi-Government / Statutory Boards
- RD: Research & Development (like fuel-cell cars, smart car rental cars)
- ROV: Defunct; Registry of Vehicles, now known as LTA [Land Transport Authority]. Some are still in use.
- RU: Restricted Use vehicles, a special category where taxes are not paid. A vehicle with such a licence restricted to certain areas, for example a pushback truck within Singapore Changi Airport grounds or shuttle buses on Sentosa Island.
- S/CC: Vehicles of the Consular Corps
- S/CD: Vehicles of the Diplomatic Corps
- S/TE: "Technical Employment" vehicles
- S1 to S10: "State Cars" - VIP vehicles for ferrying official government guests and dignatries.
- SBS: Buses operated by SBS Transit
- SEP: "Singapore Elected President" - The Official Car of The President of the Republic of Singapore (SEP 1)
- SJ: Supreme Court Justices - With the Chief Justice's car displaying plate number "SJ 1", and so on.
- SMB: Buses operated by SMRT Buses, used in tandem with the TIB series. Used for buses registered after the merger of TIBS and SMRT in 2004.
- SP: "Speaker of Parliament" (SP 1)
- SPF: Police commissioner of the Singapore Police Force (SPF1)
- SZ/SZA: Rental vehicle. New Hire/Rental cars use same series as normal cars. Now this registration is used for Private Hire cars (Chauffeur)
- TIB: Buses operated by SMRT Buses, originally stood for Trans Island Bus Services (TIBS) Used for buses registered before the merger of TIBS and SMRT in 2004.
- TP: Motorcycles of the Traffic Police Department, Singapore Police Force
Special prefixes were used for specific events, such as:
- WTO: For vehicles used during the World Trade Organization's inaugural Ministerial Conference held in Singapore in December 1996
- IOC: For vehicles used during the International Olympic Committee's 117th Session held in Singapore in July 2005
- NDP: For vehicles used during the National Day Parade, 2005, on August 9, 2005
- AIRSHOW: For vehicles used during Singapore Airshow
- APEC: For vehicles used during the APEC Annual Meetings in November 2009.
- SIWW: For vehicles used during Singapore International Water Week
- WCS: For vehicles used during World Cities Summit
- YOG: For vehicles used during the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
They are never used after the events.
Civil Mobilisation Exercise or Vehicle Recalls have a large A3/A2 sticker stuck at the rear and front of the vehicle denoted that the vehicle is being deployed or mobilised for civil 'emergencies'. These usually happens during weekends.
The checksum letter is calculated by converting the letters into numbers, i.e. where A=1 and Z=26, potentially giving 7 individual numbers from each registration plate. However, only two letters of the prefix are used in the checksum. For a three-letter prefix, only the last two letters are used; for a two-letter prefix, both letters are used; for a single letter prefix, the single letter corresponds to the second position, with the first position as 0. For numerals less than four digits, additional zeroes are added in front as placeholders, for example "1" is "0001". SBA 1234 would therefore give 2, 1, 1, 2, 3 and 4 (note that "S" is discarded); E 1 would give 0, 5, 0, 0, 0 and 1. Each individual number is then multiplied by 6 fixed numbers (9, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2). These are added up, then divided by 19. The remainder corresponds to one of the 19 letters used (A, Z, Y, X, U, T, S, R, P, M, L, K, J, H, G, E, D, C, B), with "A" corresponding to a remainder of 0, "Z" corresponding to 1, "Y" corresponding to 2 and so on. In the case of SBA 1234, the final letter should be a G; for E 1, the final letter should be an X.
Middle letter exceptions
When the SDZ series was exhausted in 2003, the SE series was skipped and the next plates issued was the SF series. LTA announced that it had adopted the policy of not issuing series with vowels in the middle of the three-letter prefixes. This was done to avoid forming objectionable word combinations such as "SEX".  Indeed there was never an SA sequence issued (the S—sequence in 1984 started with SBA), although this was because the West Coast Division of Sabah state in Malaysia has been using the SA sequence.
The Land Transport Authority has announced they may begin implementing the use of personal registration licence plates (Vanity plates) as early as late 2007, and are currently working on the details of the plan. These licence plates may take up to 12 characters compared to the current eight. For now, there is a thriving trade in the sale of number plates that have significant digits (i.e. lucky numbers) or letter combinations like SGD. Full vanity plates are not available in Singapore, only the number combination like Germany.
Other colour schemes
Vehicles registered as "Off-peak Vehicles", colloquially known as "Weekend Cars", pay a cheaper road tax as compared to normal private cars, although COE charges apply as usual. They display number plates with white characters on a red background. These vehicles are only allowed to run on the roads in Singapore after office hours (7pm-7am) on weekdays, full day on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays.
In the case where owners of private vehicles choose to run on the roads on weekdays during office hours, they are required to buy an e-licence for $20 either online or through major post offices. Car owners have up to 24 hours on the following day to purchase the e-licence. Failure to do so first time offenders may be fined up to $5,000 for failing to display a valid day coupon or using an invalid day coupon, and fined up to $10,000 for using an altered day coupon when the OPC is used during the restricted hours.
Off-peak vehicles pay a relatively lower road tax (a discount of up to $500) as compared to other private vehicles and are also given rebate of $17,000 which can be offset against COE and ARF.
Even so, the majority of the people in Singapore do not use Off-peak vehicles.
Light Goods Vehicles and Goods Passenger Vehicles uses the G series prefix. From G to GA through GZ, and the GBA, current issue is GBC.
"Restricted Use" vehicles display a number plate with a diagonal red over emerald green pattern with white letters with the two lead characters "RU". Motorcycles registered as these vehicles also use these.
"Classic Car" collectors' vehicles display a normal registration but with white lettering on a half-red over half-yellow background, with seal affixed on number plate by an authorised inspection centre. Motorcycles registered as these vehicles also use these.
"Hazardous Cargo" plates were introduced in 2005, using normal commercial vehicle registrations, often in the 'Y' code, but with, unusually, with black figures on a reflective orange background. These trucks are permitted to carry fuel, gas canisters and chemicals (inflammables), and are not permitted to enter tunnels, nor the city areas unless route arrangements have been pre-made with the fire services. Malaysian Lorries are also required to have a separate HAZMAT Orange License plate affixed to both the Trailer and Wagon (Tow Head) and subjective to the same rules.
"Research and Development" vehicles display a plate with a diagonal yellow over blue pattern with prefix 'RD'
Motor Dealers and Traders use white on blue plates using post fix code S, preceded by up to 4 numerals for their test drive vehicles such as 1234 S.
- "This Continental touch can land you in trouble", "The Straits Times" February 22, 2008
- No SEX for Singapore's drivers as government censors number plates, Agence France-Presse, July 29, 2003.
- "Name your own plates soon for Singapore Cars", "The Straits Times" March 26, 2007
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