Horn OK Please

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This article is about the phrase. For the song, see Horn OK Please (song). For the film, see Horn 'Ok' Pleassss.
Horn Ok Please sign behind a truck from Bihar
Horn Ok sign on a Bangalore truck

'Horn OK please' is a phrase commonly painted on commercial vehicles like trucks, buses or local taxis in India.[1][2]

The purpose of the phrase is to alert a driver of a vehicle approaching from behind to sound their horn in case they wish to overtake.[3]


The origin of this phrase is unknown. Also, there is no official significance with respect to Indian traffic regulations. No rules in India mandate or suggest the use of such a "slogan" on a vehicle. Still many vehicles are decorated with the phrase Horn OK please.

In the early days, most of the trucks in India were manufactured by the TATA Group. During these times, Tata Oil Mills Ltd. Co (TOMCO) came up with a new brand of detergent called “OK”. And in order to market their detergent they used the motor medium very effectively by painting OK. This brand had a symbol in the shape of a lotus flower. Thus it became “Horn OK Please”. This carried on for a few years and as times went by the OK sort of became a part of the initial paint itself by the lorry drivers and is still being used by people without knowing its origin.

Though this may be the most likely origin, there are plenty of theories for the “Horn Ok Please” being into existence. One such theory has its roots in the Second World War where trucks were often run on petrol when there was a shortage of diesel. Petrol, being highly unstable in nature, would cause the trucks to explode at the slightest accident. Hence a warning would be painted on the back saying “Horn Please, On Petrol”. Gradually this became a norm and is still seen on most trucks even today.

Another possible explanation is that during the blackout on lights during the Second World War, if a car had to overtake a lorry in the night, it had to honk. For this purpose, there used to be a red light under the truck which the truck driver would switch on to signal that it was OK to overtake. It was the OK in the middle that would light up.

Yet another explanation (and probably one bearing some truth behind it) is that the OK is separate from the Horn Please. The OK is kept there in big, bold letters, to allow the drivers from behind to realise that they were OK and alive, thus preventing them from rash behaviour; in addition, the fact that they are able to read the OK is indicative that they are keeping an appropriate braking distance.

Another theory is that, the original words were Horn OTK (overtake) please. And since many times the T would merge into the paneling of the truck it got mistaken for OK.

Ban in Maharashtra[edit]

On April 30, 2015, the Government of Maharashtra banned the use of "Horn OK Please" on the rear side of commercial vehicles, on the grounds that it encourages motorists to honk unnecessarily and leads to noise pollution. Signage on the rear side of commercial vehicles, such as trucks and tempos, across Maharashtra is a gross violation of Section 134 (1) of the Maharashtra Motor Vehicle Rules, which deals with signage to be used on the rear and sides of vehicles.[4]

Bal Malkit Singh, a former president of the All India Motor Transport Congress, welcomed the ban stating that the phrase was required in the past when the roads were narrow; on modern wide roads and multi-lane highways, the drivers could use lights and indicators to overtake other vehicles.[5]

Other countries[edit]

In Pakistan too, instructions are used in a similar manner, but with rather different styles and phrases. Like the phrase Horn de kar paas karein written in Urdu, often found behind heavy vehicles, trucks, and trailers traveling on long routes or highways.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rajini Vaidyanathan (2013-06-04). "10 things you might not know about India". BBC News. Retrieved 2013-06-05. 
  2. ^ Mike Featherstone, N. J. Thrift, John Urry (2005). Automobilities (illustrated ed.). SAGE. ISBN 9781412910897. 
  3. ^ "No more 'Horn OK Please' in Mumbai". Hindustan Times (Mumbai). 26 March 2014. Retrieved Apr 2, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Implement 'Horn OK Please' ban properly, say activists". Times of India. May 2, 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  5. ^ "Maharashtra government says tata-bye-bye to ‘Horn OK Please’ on trucks". Economic Times. 2015-05-01. 

External links[edit]