Following requests from the Punjab Safe City Authority, the Punjab Excise, Taxation and Narcotics Control Department (ET&NC) has agreed to launch new vehicle number plates for the province. The department has finalized its proposal for universal plates for vehicles introduced following June 2017.
The New Number Plate Format
Excise and taxation department’s final proposal suggests that three alphabets will be used for the entire province alongside three digits to identify all vehicles.
On the other hand, it has been suggested that four digits will be used, instead of three, for two-wheelers. This will help in distinguishing between the different types of vehicles.
For the entire province, private vehicles will get number plates starting with AAA. There will no longer be any distinction between vehicles from different cities of the province. The new plates will also have no mention of the year of a vehicle’s registration.
Government and semi-government vehicles, ambulances and commercial vehicles will get a slightly modified version of the new number plate format. Instead of starting with AAA, they will get plates starting with alphabets such as GAA.
The design and pattern of the new plates will remain the same as before. The size of the number plates, however, will be increased to make the registration plates more readable for the Punjab Safe City Authority’s (PSCA) security cameras.
The Reason Behind the Change in Number Plates
PSCA is to install more than 10,000 HD CCTV cameras by the middle of this year which will help in improving automated car number plate detection. Previously, the government had also introduced e-ticketing through the Automated Number Plate Recognition System (ANPR) of the Safe City Authority.
The existing size and format of the number plates was not optimum for this and that is the reason why Safe City Authority was so adamant at having the number plates changed. The current font size and the year of registration of the plate made it difficult for the cameras to read the plates successfully.
The authority suggested making the text much larger than the current one, however, the excise department resisted and asked to keep the same size. Both, PSCA and ET&NC, had several meetings on the matter and finally, the new pattern for these number plates was decided with a moderate increase in text size.
Benefits to the Car Owners & Government
The excise department is aiming to reduce the load on Lahore’s motoring branch with the new universal number plates. Currently, all regional motoring branches of the ET&NC issue city specific number plates and the car owners need to visit the respective regional office for any specific number plate.
Since most vehicles are registered with a Lahore number plate due to their higher resale values, Lahore’s motoring branch gets additional burden from across the province. With a universal number plate for the whole province, the car owners and excise authorities will have to face less hassle and it would put an end to the lower resale value of cars from other cities.
Possible Issues of the New Scheme
The decision to use a pair of three digit codes to identify all cars in Punjab seems impossible to implement. Since, there are millions of cars in Punjab and many more will be sold in the future, the 6-digit code is insufficient to identify all current and future cars in Punjab. Even if the department only implements the new plates for new cars, the current format will still prove insufficient in a few years’ time.
The excise department has either made a mistake in its calculations or has misreported on the exact scheme.
Secondly, the Punjab government recently started a crackdown against fake number plates and their vendors. With a change in the format yet again, the campaign would have to be restarted. To take full advantage of standardized universal number plates, the department will have to request all current car owners to change their numbers as well.
Final Implementation of the New Number Plates
The proposal is now finalized and has been sent to the provincial cabinet for approval. The new number plates will be introduced following some minor amendments.
As the government’s three year contract with the current number plate vendor is set to expire later this year, the new contract will be set for the new universal number plates. Therefore, a mid-year launch for the new number plates is expected.