Vehicle registration plates of Singapore
Vehicle registration plates in Singapore are administered by the Land Transport Authority.
In general, every motor vehicle in Singapore has a vehicle registration number. Two colour schemes are in use: the black-on-white (front of the vehicle) and 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 which are black (for white-yellow), or white or silver (for black ones). No standardised typeface is used, though all typefaces are based on the Charles Wright number plate typeface used in the UK. Thinner-looking variants are commonly used by SBS Transit buses, taxis and goods vehicles. Rarely, the FE-Schrift font used in Germany can be seen – though the use of this font is prohibited by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
A typical vehicle registration number comes in the format "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 'B' 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. E was chosen then as letters A-D were already in used by other states in Malaysia. From 1984, the "S" series of number plates was launched again, but now with two serial suffix letters, starting from SBA.
Other classes of vehicles have registration numbers beginning with specific letters:
- CB series: Company or school buses (discontinued in 1996)
- F_ series: Motorcycles (e.g., FA–FZ); used till late 2005
- FB_ series: Motorcycles (e.g., FBA, FBB, and so on); started at the end of December 2005
- G _ series: Light Goods vehicles (class 3/4/5) (e.g., GA – GZ)
- GB _ series: Light Goods vehicles (class 3/4/5) (e.g., GBA - GBF(May 2016)); introduced from the year 2010
- P series: Private operator buses (PA, PC, PH, PZ were used to separate private buses, private hire vehicles, and so on, but later on all private hire vehicles were issued with PA and PC plates). These include Bedok Transport, Downtown Bay, Transcity Bus Services, Aedge Holdings, Commute Solutions, Woodlands Transport, Tong Tar and Transtar Travel)
- Q _ _ series: Company vehicles (no longer issued – company cars are now issued with "S" series number plates like private cars, reason for no longer issued because overlapped to QX, QY plates and Malaysian state of Sarawak number plates)
- SH_ series: Taxis or street hire vehicles such as Singapore-Johore Express, former SBS buses operating Sentosa and Airport services (AIRBUS) and Singapore Explorer Trolley - City Sightseeing buses.
- W_ series: Engineering plant vehicles (Class 5), some registered Jeeps and Rovers. The series are in conflict with some of the newer extended Kuala Lumpur series.
- X_ series: Very heavy goods vehicles (Class 5/prime movers) not constructed to carry any load
- TR_ series: Trailers
- Y_ series: Heavy goods vehicles (class 3/4)
In addition, the following are controlled for specific types of vehicles, including:
- CSS: City Shuttle Service buses (no longer issued: all deregistered.)
- LTA: Land Transport Authority enforcement officers' vehicles.
- MID: Singapore Armed Forces vehicles (this is a suffix with up to five digits before it, e.g., "12345 MID"). "MID" originally stood for the Ministry of Interior and Defence. General ranks in the armed forces are provided with staff cars with two-digit MID plates.
- MP: Vehicles operated by the Singapore Armed Forces Military Police Command (SAFPU plates were formerly used)
- NZ: Vehicles of New Zealand diplomats and Installations Auxiliary Police Force (ANZUK).
- PU: Tax-exempt, restricted for exclusive use with permission on the island of Pulau Ubin
- QX: Emergency and law enforcement agencies (Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, etc.)
- QY: Quasi-government agencies and statutory boards
- RD: Research and development vehicles (such as electric, fuel-cell and smart car rental vehicles).
- RU: Restricted Use vehicles, a special category for vehicles for which road taxes are not paid. A vehicle with such a licence is restricted for use within certain areas, for example a pushback truck within the grounds of Singapore Changi Airport or shuttle buses on Sentosa island and other southern islands of Singapore. When travelling out of the restricted boundaries, such vehicles are either required to be tagged with a trade-plate or towed.
- S/CC: Vehicles of the Consular Corps
- S/CD: Vehicles of the Diplomatic Corps
- S/TE: "Technical employment" vehicles
- S1 to S10: State cars used for ferrying official government guests and dignitaries
- SBS: Buses operated by SBS Transit (from 1973). Currently also used by Tower Transit and Go-Ahead Singapore.
- SDC: Buses operated by Sentosa Development Corporation (No longer issued, replaced by RU plates)
- SEP: "Singapore Elected President" – the official state car of the President of the Republic of Singapore (SEP 1)
- SG: Government-owned buses operated by contracted bus operators under Bus Contracting Model. Originally goods vehicles, all goods vehicles were de-registered by 1998.
- SJ: Supreme Court judges (the Chief Justice's car has the plate number "SJ 1").
- 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. Currently also used by Tower Transit.
- SP: Speaker of Parliament (SP 1)
- SPF: Commissioner of Police, Singapore Police Force (SPF 1)
- STC: Buses operated by Singapore Traction Company. (All deregistered, operations ceased since 1971).
- SZ/SZA: Older rental vehicles and chauffeur-driven private hire cars. Other new hire or rental cars use the same series as ordinary cars.
- TIB: Buses operated by SMRT Buses registered before the merger of Trans-Island Bus Services (TIBS) and SMRT from 1983 to 2004.
- TP: Motorcycles of the Traffic Police Department, Singapore Police Force
Special prefixes were used for specific events, such as:
- WTO: Vehicles used during the World Trade Organization's inaugural Ministerial Conference held in Singapore in December 1996
- IOC: Vehicles used during the International Olympic Committee's 117th Session held in Singapore in July 2005
- NDP: Vehicles used during the National Day Parade, 2005, on 9 August 2005
- AIRSHOW: Vehicles used during Singapore Airshow
- APEC: Vehicles used during the APEC Annual Meetings in November 2009.
- SIWW: Vehicles used during Singapore International Water Week
- WCS: Vehicles used during World Cities Summit
- YOG: Vehicles used during the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.
- SEAG: Vehicles used during the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.
- APG: Vehicles used during the 2015 ASEAN Para Games.
- HSBC: Vehicles used during the events organised by HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation)
- SGP: Vehicles used during the Singapore Grand Prix.
They are neither used after the events nor sold for to the public, but unofficial series for cosmetic purposes.
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 mobilised or deployed for civil emergency exercises. These usually happen during weekends.
The checksum letter is calculated by converting the letters into numbers, i.e., where A=1 and Z=26, potentially giving seven 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". SBS 3480 would therefore give 2, 19, 3, 4, 8 and 0 (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 SBS 3480, the final letter should be a G; for E 1, the final letter should be a D.
Checksum suffix letters are not applied to special government vehicles and event vehicles.
LTA has introduced policies where certain series of license plate prefixes are deliberately skipped for various reasons. The policies include:
- SA: The SA sequence was never issued (the S-sequence in 1984 started with SBA), because the West Coast Division of Sabah state in Malaysia has been using the SA sequence
- SE, SI, SO and SU: When the SDZ series was exhausted in 2003, the SE series was skipped and the next plates issued was the SFA. 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 "SEE" (resembles spelling of 'see'), "SEL" (resembles spelling of the word 'sell'), "SEX" (resembles spelling of 'sex'), "SEY" (resembles spelling of 'say'), "SIA" (resembles Singapore Airlines), "SIN" (resembles abbreviation of Singapore as well as 'sin') and "SUX" (resembles spelling of 'sucks'). It will continue to be a trend because pornography is illegal in Singapore, as after SGZ was exhausted in mid-2008, SJA was used next, since SH was already being used for taxis.
- SKY: LTA has announced that since SKY also forms a meaningful word (sky), the SKY series will also be skipped despite the middle letter being a consonant.
The Land Transport Authority announced in late 2007 that it might begin implementing the use of personal registration licence plates (vanity plates). These licence plates may take up to 12 characters compared to the current eight. To date, such a scheme has not been introduced, as it would further encourage the use of private vehicles which contradicts the efforts by the state in discouraging the usage of private vehicles. 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.
Other colour schemes
Vehicles registered as "Off-peak Vehicles", colloquially known as "weekend cars" or red plate, pay a cheaper road tax compared to ordinary private cars, although the usual Certificate of Entitlement (COE) charges apply. Off-peak vehicles display number plates with white characters on a red background. These vehicles are only allowed to run on the roads in Singapore after peak hours (7:00 pm – 7:00 am) on weekdays, and the whole day on Saturday (Revised OPC scheme allows on whole Saturday, non-revised old OPC scheme vehicles must adhered to the old scheme restriction which is 7:00 am – 3:00 pm on Saturday), Sunday and public holidays. The restriction are not applied if the vehicle entered and use in Malaysia on peak hour weekdays (7:00 am – 7:00 pm).
If owners of off-peak vehicles wish to drive 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. 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 up to $10,000 for using an altered day coupon when their vehicles are 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 the COE and ARF. However, majority of the people in Singapore do not use off-peak vehicles due to current COE prices are high and not worth for cars above 1600cc. Off-peak vehicles are popular among cars below 1600cc and during low COE prices.
A "Restricted Use" vehicle displays a registration plate with white letters on a diagonally bisected background, the upper half of which is red and the lower half emerald green. The two lead characters of the plate are "RU".
A "Classic Car" collector's vehicle has an ordinary registration number but with white lettering on a half-red, half-yellow background, with a seal affixed on the number plate by an authorised inspection centre.
"Hazardous Cargo" plates were introduced in 2005, using normal commercial vehicle registrations, often in the 'Y' code, but with, unusually, black figures on a reflective orange background. These trucks are permitted to carry fuel, gas canisters and chemicals (flammables), and are neither permitted to enter tunnels nor city areas unless route arrangements have been made in advance with the fire services. Malaysian lorries are also required to have a separate HAZMAT orange licence plate affixed to both the trailer and wagon (tow head). Such vehicles are subject to the same rules as Singapore-registered hazardous cargo vehicles.
"Research and Development" vehicles display a half-yellow, half-blue plate with the prefix "RD".
Motor dealers and traders use white on blue plates using the suffix "S", preceded by up to four numerals for their test drive vehicles.
Driving instructors teaching students in Singapore must display an "L" ("learner") plate beside their vehicle registration plates on both the front and back of the vehicle.
- "This Continental touch can land you in trouble", The Straits Times, 22 February 2008.
- "No SEX please on licence plates", The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 2002.
- "Name your own plates soon for Singapore cars", The Straits Times, 26 March 2007.
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