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Registration Fun Facts

The following article is reproduced with kind permission of the author: John Harrison

Under the provisions of the Motor Car Act 1903 any motor vehicle used on public roads after 1 January 1904 had to be registered. Compared with other countries, Britain was comparatively late in introducing vehicle registration because it was thought the requirement to display a registration infringed civil liberties. Although Britain was “late to the party” in introducing registrations, it now has the oldest national system in the world under which a number issued at the system’s outset could still be legally used on the same vehicle.

It is often stated that A 1 was the first British registration to be issued. This is not the case. As far as we can tell from surviving records, it would seem that the first number issued was DY 1 issued on 23 November 1903 by Hastings, whereas A 1 was not issued until 7 December 1903. Also, it is sometimes stated that Earl Russell who had A 1 queued all night to obtain the number, but there does not seem to be any contemporary record of this, so the story might well be an urban myth.

The Local Government Board who were responsible for bringing the registration legislation into effect allotted one- or two-letter codes to local authorities in England and Wales in 1903. They did it in alphabetical order by population size with A going to London, the largest authority running through to FP which went to Rutland, the smallest authority by population size. Wales was not given any special recognition in this allocation. There were, however, separate Local Government Boards for Scotland and Ireland and they issued their codes using the authorities’ names in alphabetical order, not using population size.

When codes were originally allotted to local authorities, two objected to the codes they had been given, Dorset which had BF (which stood for “bloody fool” at the time) and Northampton which had DF (which stood for “damned fool”). Their protests were accepted and replacement codes FX and NH respectively were allotted instead.

In 1921 local authorities in the part of Ireland that was to become the Republic were refusing to cooperate with the British authorities and this included not registering new vehicles and collecting tax on them. The Road Vehicles (Defaulting Councils) (Ireland) Order 1921 was passed which therefore passed these functions to the police, the Royal Irish Constabulary. When southern Ireland became Independent the following year the Irish registration system remained based on the British one until 1987 when a new system was adopted. When the Republic introduced reflective plates in 1969, however, red rear plates were used in contrast to the British yellow ones.

Nowadays it is not unusual for a celebrity to have a personal plate. The first celebrity to have one is thought to have been the famous music hall comedian, Harry Tate who had car number, T 8. He later also obtained HT 20 when Bristol started issuing HT combinations in 1920. It might be thought that the paparazzi is a comparatively modern phenomenon. In 1935, however, Harry Tate’s car was followed by two journalists who recognised the T 8 number plate. They realised he was driving erratically and signaled a police patrol car. Mr Tate was charged with drunk driving and dangerous driving. He was acquitted on the first charge, but fined £12-12s for driving dangerously.

The format of the British registration system has had to evolve as vehicle ownership has increased. The original format was one or two letters followed by up to four numerals, e.g. AB 1234; then in 1932 issuing three letters followed by up to three numerals commenced, e.g. ABC 123. In 1953 some authorities started putting the numbers ahead of the letters, e.g. 1234 AB or 123 ABC. In 1963 year-suffix marks were first introduced, e.g ABC 123A and in 1983 year-prefix marks, e.g. A123 BCD. In 2001 the current format, e.g. AB51 CDE, was introduced.

Between 1955 and 1962 it was possible to apply to a local authority to have an old voided number reissued on payment of £5 (about £80 in today’s money). A lot of numbers comprising one or two letters followed by one or two numerals still seen on our roads are £5 reissues dating from this period and are now, of course, worth a considerably larger amount. The then Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, put a stop to this practice as sometimes the search in the records for a voided number to meet a request was costing more than £5.

When year letters were introduced it resulted in number plates having a maximum of seven characters instead of six which required smaller characters. Number plate manufacturers did not want to have to change to a different character in one go, so the introduction of year letters was phased in. the first authority to issue them was Middlesex which started using them on 18 February 1963 as it was running out of available combinations in the previous format. Other authorities switched to issuing year letters in a phased programme over the next two years, with the final authorities switching on 1 January 1965. One consequence of the smaller sized number plate characters was the requirement to read a number plate at 75 feet to obtain a driving licence was reduced to 67 feet (now expressed as 20.5 metres in legislation).

Only one person is allowed not to have to have number plates on their car, the monarch. Until 1936 all the monarch’s cars were plateless, but now this exemption is just applied to the monarch’s official cars.

Bentley state limousine

In 1922 in Dundee a “Keystone Cops” situation occurred when five of the King’s cars were brought to that city by boat to be driven on to Balmoral for a hunting party and the Dundee Police who did not know that King’s cars did not require number plates pursued them.

You may think that DVLA only issues registrations with the current “age identifier” (17 at the moment). That is not the case. A lot of vehicles have to be given “new old” numbers, e.g. when personal plates are transferred off them or they are imported second-hand, so there have to be previously unissued numbers available for vehicles of any age, e.g. if somebody imports a 1965 car it has to receive a C-suffix mark. There is even a series available for veteran vehicles, i.e. ones made up to 1904. This is BS 8***. This series does, however, progress quite slowly with about 20 marks being issued each year.

John Harrison is the editor of a quarterly newsletter which covers all aspects of vehicle registrations, “1903 and All That”. Subscription details for the newsletter can be obtained by contacting John on john(at)theharrisonfamily.org.uk.

How to assign a private number plate online

Assigning or transferring a private number plate to a car got a whole lot easier recently. You can now apply online to put a private number plate on a vehicle. It doesn’t matter whether the plate is currently registered to a vehicle, or held on a V750 Certificate of Entitlement/V778 Retention Document – the entire transfer could be completed in less than five minutes.

Apply online to put a private number plate on a vehicle

If you have a V750 Certificate of Entitlement (pink) or a V778 Retention Document (green) you can apply to assign your cherished number plate online using the link above. 

(If your private plate is currently attached to a vehicle and you want to transfer it to another vehicle, skip to the relevant paragraph near the end of this article.)

The V5C Registration Certificate (for the vehicle receiving your private plate) must show the correct registered keeper details (name and address). If you recently bought the vehicle and are not yet the registered keeper, wait until you have the complete V5C (log book).

Follow the instructions provided on the GOV.UK website. You don’t have to pay a fee to DVLA when you put a number plate on a vehicle providing the registration is held on a valid V778 document or V750 certificate that has not expired.

If your application is successful you should fit new number plates as soon as possible.

application successful to put a number plate on a car

You will receive a confirmation email with a number plate authorisation certificate (eV948) attached. This can be used to purchase new number plates without waiting for the replacement V5C (log book) to arrive by post.

application successful to put a number plate on a car

Remember to notify your motor insurer/tracker provider/recovery agent of your new registration. Some motor insurers charge an administration fee to update your policy.

Unable to complete your application online?

Unfortunately not all applications to put a personalised number plate on a vehicle can be processed online. In some cases you may need to submit your paperwork to DVLA by post. If you get a message saying ‘this registration number cannot be assigned’, contact DVLA using the telephone number on-screen. If the message states ‘we need to look into your application further due to the vehicle’s licensing history‘ you will have to submit your application by post. Follow the instructions in section 1 of the certificate of entitlement or retention document. Postal applications should be sent to:

DVLA Personalised Registrations, Swansea, SA99 1DS

My private plate is held on a vehicle and I want to swap it over to a different vehicle
If the private plate is held on a vehicle, the transfer has to be processed in two stages. First you remove the plate (place it on retention). This is done by inputting the document reference number from the V5C Registration Document (log book). The fee of £80 can be paid by debit or credit card. (The second stage is assigning to a vehicle following the instructions from the beginning of this article.)

Apply to take a number plate off a vehicle and place it on retention

It is not necessary to retain your vehicle’s existing (standard-issue) registration when assigning a private number plate. Should you retain your private plate in the future it is highly likely your car will be reunited with the original registration. More information about replacement registrations.

For more information please visit the number plates & vehicle registration section at GOV.UK or contact DVLA.

Is Buying a Personalised Number Plate Complicated?

This is a popular question when someone is considering buying a personalised number plate. So, is buying a personalised number plate complicated?

The simple answer is no; buying from a dealer should mean a hassle-free transaction for the client. The dealer handles the paperwork and DVLA procedures on your behalf.

Some of the most recent private number plate transfers we carried out were completed the same day. Here is a summary of the procedure; the client gets in touch with an enquiry about a particular registration. They will generally have a few questions to ask and providing they get the right answers an agreement is reached.

The client has the option of coming over in person with their V5C Registration Certificate (log-book). We have a coffee and a chat while the payment goes through and then complete the plate transfer via the new DVLA online facility. Minutes later the transfer is complete and the plates can be fitted to the car. The client contacts their motor insurer and tracker provider to notify the change of registration.

It is not convenient for every client to come over in person, so sometimes the client sends their vehicle documents to us. We complete the transfer and advise as soon as everything is complete. The plates can go on the vehicle  and the new V5C Registration Certificate is sent direct to the client from DVLA Swansea.

51CL McLaren

The last step in the process involves the client taking a photo of their car or motorbike proudly displaying their new number plates. We upload the images to the number plates photos page of the Simply Registrations website.

If you have a general question, the answer may already be on the FAQs page. If you are interested in buying a private plate that you have seen on the Simply Registrations website, give us a call on 0113 288 7553.

Good News for Motorists in Northern Ireland with Personalised Number Plates

Personalised number plate transfers are set to become much easier for motorists in Northern Ireland from July 2014. The proposed merger of the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland and the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Great Britain brings with it changes to the registration assignment rules.

As things stand it is not possible retain a cherished number, or to assign a personalised plate from a DVLA issued V778 retention document to a Northern Ireland registered vehicle. All that will change from 21st July 2014 as facilities currently available to motorists with vehicles registered at DVLA Swansea will be rolled out to motorists in Northern Ireland.

DVA Logo

 

 

 

From Monday 14th July 2014 motorists in Northern Ireland should send applications for assignments, transfers and retentions to:

Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency
Swansea
SA99 1DP

More information on how to place a registration on retention can be found here:
http://www.simplyregistrations.co.uk/blog/retention-of-a-personalised-number-plate/

DVLA Local Offices to Close – All Work to Transfer to Swansea

The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) Local & Regional Offices are scheduled to close by the end of 2013. All of the work currently handled at a local level is being centralised and will be processed at DVLA Headquarters in Swansea. We are currently in a transition period; some changes have been made and others are still being implemented. It has meant longer than usual turnaround times for number plate transfers and retention applications. This is having a knock-on effect in the motor trade with many car retailers unable to supply vehicles to their customers whilst they wait for important documents to arrive.

Summary of Changes so far:

1st May 2013 – All trade plate applications dealt with at DVLA Swansea

24th June 2013 – Post Office expands tax disc options

1st July 2013 – All cherished transfer & retention applications dealt with at DVLA Swansea

22nd July 2013 – Tax discs for new cars issued by DVLA Swansea. New law introduced allowing 14 day grace period for display of tax discs.

Personalised Registrations Applications
The change that concerns readers of this blog the most is the processing of all cherished number plate transfers and retention applications at DVLA Swansea. The stance from DVLA hasn’t changed and if you take a look at the official Twitter channel of the DVLA, the advice is to send all applications direct to Swansea. However, our experience suggests you will get a much quicker response if you take your application to the counter of your nearest DVLA Local Office.

From the 1st of July 2013 if you handed in your application at a Local Office it was batched up and sent to Swansea. DVLA headquarters were quickly swamped with an overload of work whilst staff in the Local Offices found their days were dragging as they had very little to do. A couple of weeks later some Local Offices were instructed to only send a small number of applications per day to Swansea – all others were to be processed in-house.

At Simply Registrations we still use the DVLA Leeds Office and will continue to do so until it closes on the 13th of December 2013. We are still able to complete same-day transfers at the counter when assigning a registration from a V750 or V778 to a vehicle. Cherished transfers and retention applications are not completed there and then, however the first part of the application which involves the issuing of a replacement tax disc & MOT Test Certificate is being handled at Leeds and the current turnaround time is 48/72 hours. The V5C Registration Certificates and V778 Retention Documents still take between 2 to 4 weeks to arrive from Swansea.

The hope is that eventually an online system will be introduced to enable much faster processing of cherished transfers and retention applications. Consultations investigating the possibility of making the paper tax disc obsolete, removing the insurance check when taxing a car and the probability that the paper MOT Test Certificate will be scrapped would surely help to speed things up.

For the time being the best available option is to make use of the DVLA Local Offices whilst they remain open for business. Not only does it seem to speed up turnaround times for plate transfers, you aren’t risking your application going missing in the post before it even arrives at DVLA HQ in Swansea. It is more important than ever before to make sure your application form is correctly completed. The staff at your nearest DVLA Office will check your paperwork at the counter whilst you are there. As some motor traders have recently discovered, it is incredibly frustrating to have your documents returned and your application rejected just because you forgot to sign the cheque or put a ‘x’ in the appropriate box on a V317 application form.

We would love to hear of your own experiences if you have had recent dealings with the DVLA, feel free to add your comments below.