Maryland truck license plate

Rick Kretschmer's License Plate Archives 

Maryland truck license plate

A Pictorial History of Maryland License Plates

Truck plates dated 1910 to present

 

This page provides a narrative history, with accompanying photos, of various types of truck license plates issued by Maryland from 1910 to the present day. 

Latest noteworthy updates to this page
  • February 2, 2017  –  Added photo of a rusty 1962 farm truck tractor plate. 
  • December 31, 2016  –  Added photo of a 1918 solid tire vehicle plate. 
  • August 20, 2016  –  Added photos of a 1936 truck-for-hire plate pair where the rear plate has a locking strip. Added photo of a version 2 1948 farm truck base, which has vertical text. Upgraded first generation Treasure the Chesapeake truck plate. 

Introduction

From 1910 to 1937, Maryland license plates displayed the calendar year in which they were valid.  Plates dated 1939 and later always indicate, on the plates themselves, or via metal tabs or stickers, the year in which they expire.  Exceptions to this include undated, unstickered plates that expired in 1976 and 1981, and front plates issued since 1986, which are not dated and do not bear stickers.  I consistently refer to plates by the year that is shown on the plate, regardless of when the plate was actually issued. 

Maryland non-passenger plate types and their expiration stickers, with few exceptions, have closely resembled or been indistinguishable from their passenger car equivalents from the same time period.  Because this information is covered in detail on the passenger plate pages and the general information page, I'll just point out when there were deviations from passenger car plates. 

On the various Maryland non-passenger plate history pages, for plates dated 1953 and earlier, I've listed the specific years and plate numbers that I've seen firsthand or in photos.  This will hopefully be useful in identifying patterns and figuring out the mysteries surrounding some of these plates. 

Note that this page does not exhaustively cover all types of Maryland truck plates.  Plates for government-owned trucks are covered on the History of Maryland Government License Plates and History of Maryland Emergency Vehicle License Plates pages. 

My "Pictorial History" pages are intended to be a supplement to the information found in the ALPCA Archives.  I am providing additional details and additional photos not found in the archives, and clarifying information when appropriate.  When the ALPCA archives cover a subject in great detail, I do not repeat that detail here.  I sincerely hope that you find this information useful. 

If you find an error or have additional information, or can provide a plate or a photo of a plate that I'm missing, please send me an e-mail.  There's a link to my e-mail address at the bottom of every page.  Please note that all plates shown that are credited to another person are plates that I am still seeking for my own collection. 

Maryland truck plates, 1910-1916

1913 merchandise vehicle
1913 regular merchandise vehicle
(Anshant plate)

1914 merchandise vehicle
1914 "A" merchandise vehicle
(Francis plate)
Merchandise vehicles

This type of plate was only issued during 1910 to 1916.  As its name suggests, this category implies a cargo-carrying vehicle rather than a passenger-carrying vehicle, and so it roughly corresponds to a truck plate.  No surviving example from 1910 is known.  1911 through 1914 plates were made of porcelain and bore the legend Merchandise Only across the bottom of the plate.  The 1915 and 1916 were embossed metal; the legend was shortened to Mdse. Only and was located along the top of the plate. 

All 1911 through 1913 Merchandise Only plates had an "M" serial prefix; 1914 through 1916 plates did not.  Some plates from each year had an "A" suffix during the "M" prefix years, or an "A" prefix in other years; however, there is not agreement among experts regarding the significance or meaning of the "A".  It has been suggested that the "A" stood for agricultural products, or perhaps for automobile (as opposed to truck).  My opinion is that in this time period there was not sufficient distinction between a cargo-carrying automobile and a truck to warrant issuing different license plates. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1911:  M610, M703, M718, M773
  • 1912:  M734, M823, M886A
  • 1913:  M1001, M1115A, M1170A, M1580, M1602
  • 1914:  1050, 1148, 1317, A1667, A1836, A1856
  • 1915:  2135, 2415

Maryland truck plates, 1917-1941

Regular trucks

Trucks did not automatically receive distinct plates during these years, although many trucks undoubtedly qualified for truck for hire and truck tractor plates once those plate types were introduced.  From 1919 to 1941, and likely also in 1917-1918, not-for-hire trucks were issued either solid tire plates, if applicable, or passenger car plates.  However, either of these plate types, when issued to trucks with a capacity of 2 tons or greater, can be identified by a circular disc rivited to the plate, which bore either a single-digit number or the letter "X".  The number on the disc indicated the number of tons the truck could carry, and the "X" probably signified 10 or more tons.  Light-duty, not-for-hire trucks with pneumatic tires were issued ordinary passenger car plates without any distinguishing features. 

1918 solid tire vehicle
Repainted 1918 solid tire vehicle
(Willard plate)

1920 solid tire truck
1920 solid tire truck
(plate owner not identified)

1926 solid tire 2 ton truck
1926 solid tire 2 ton truck

1927 solid tire 4 ton truck
1927 solid tire 4 ton truck
Solid tire vehicles

This category was begun in 1917 and is reported to have continued up until the 1971 base plate.  These plates were issued to vehicles with non-pneumatic tires, like you would find on a horse-drawn wagon.  From what I understand, solid tire vehicles were usually trucks, but not necessarily.  Again, a solid tire vehicle plate can be positively identified as a truck plate if there is a small circular disk riveted to the plate, such as in the examples from 1926 and 1927 shown at left.  It's evident that the 1920 plate shown at left also once had a disk attached along its right edge. 

These plates bore the legend Solid Tire during 1917-1920.  The plates were quite large – 15 inches long like other plates of the time, but 7 1/4 inches high rather than the usual 6 inches, in order to accommodate the legend.  An "X" serial prefix was sometimes used during 1917-1920, but the meaning of the "X" is unknown. 

Beginning in 1921, solid tire plates had the same dimensions as other plate types.  The 1921 solid tire plates were identified with only an "S" serial suffix; from 1922 on, they bore the legend Solid, displayed vertically on either the left or right side of the plate. 

(Note that the 1918 plate shown at left has been repainted, and the background color is not accurate.  It should be dark gray, not black.) 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1917 ("Solid Tire" top):  7-468
  • 1918 ("Solid Tire" bottom):  X4-080, X4-204, 4-745, 5-400, X5-468, X5-786, X5-967
  • 1919 ("Solid Tire" top):  5-688, 9-384, 9-512
  • 1920 ("Solid Tire" bottom):  5-036, 5-735, 6-328, 6-958, 9-000, 9-440, 11-566, 12-563, 13-082, X14-060, 14-497
  • 1921:  18-132S, 19-514S, 24-211S, 25-928S
  • 1922 ("Solid" vertical left):  22-167, 23-530
  • 1924 ("Solid" vertical left):  19-232, 23-791, 24-225
  • 1925 ("Solid" vertical right):  19-046, 21-407
  • 1926 ("Solid" vertical left):  24-187, 24-448, 25-246
  • 1927 ("Solid" vertical right):  16-902, 18-894, 22-947, 23-818, 23-921
  • 1928 ("Solid" vertical left):  21-640, 22-967, 23-686
  • 1929 ("Solid" vertical right):  21-775
  • 1931 ("Solid" vertical right):  15-031
  • 1932 ("Solid" vertical left):  21-215, 22-901
  • 1933 ("Solid" vertical right):  21-102
Trucks for hire
1936 truck for hire with locking strip

1936 truck for hire with split year
1936 truck for hire plate with a locking
strip (top), and its one-piece, split
year mate
(Willard plates)

This category was introduced in 1933 or possibly earlier, and was identified with a stacked "C/H" prefix or suffix.  The "C" referred to a commercial vehicle (i.e., a truck), not any vehicle used for commercial purposes.  (Taxis were issued "H" prefix "for hire" plates.)  A subset of 1936 C/H plates were issued with locking strips as described on the passenger car plate page; these were the only non-passenger plates that were made with locking strips. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1933:  C/H 28-943
  • 1934:  25-338 C/H, 27-737 C/H
  • 1935:  25-363 C/H, 29-304 C/H, 29-596 C/H
  • 1936:  C/H 24-525, C/H 25-272 (both with locking strip)
  • 1941:  C/H 22-569
1934 truck tractor
Repainted 1934 truck tractor
(Hafer photo / plate)
Truck tractors

Truck tractors are the front part of a tractor-trailer combination.  Back in the day, truck tractors were called "traction engines", and so the odd-sounding legend Traction was embossed on plates issued to truck tractors.  The earliest known issue was in 1932.  At least some of these "traction" plates in the 1930s and early 1940s were "shorties", 6 inches by 9 inches in size. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1932:  243 (9 inches)
  • 1934:  318 (9 inches)

Maryland truck plates, 1942-1947

Regular trucks

It's safe to say that regular trucks were issued passenger car plates prior to 1948.  I'm not sure how long the riveted disc thing lasted, but I don't recall ever having seen any on plates from the 1940s. 

Solid tire vehicles

By now, such plates were pretty much exclusively issued to trucks with non-pneumatic tires.  The word Solid ran down either the left or right edge of the plate. 

1945 truck for hire
1945 truck for hire
(Clark photo / plate)
Trucks for hire

The stacked "C/H" became consistently a prefix.  The letters actually stood for "Commercial (vehicle) for Hire", with the term "commercial vehicle" understood to mean a truck, rather than any vehicle used for commercial purposes.  Passenger cars for hire, such as taxis, received "H" prefix "For Hire" plates. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1942 base:  C/H 19-377, C/H 26-881
  • 1945 base:  C/H 28-530
Truck tractors

1942 and presumably 1945 plates were of normal size, and had the legends Traction across the top and Drive Carefully across the bottom.  The state abbreviation MD, the expiration month and date, and the expiration year were stacked horizontally on the left side of the plate.  Passenger-type renewal tabs were attached to the upper right corner of the plate, even though these did not cover up the base plates' original expiration years. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1942 base:  4-413
"SR" truck tractors

"SR" truck tractor plates were just like regular truck tractor plates as described above, except that they had the stacked suffix letters "S/R" following the serial number.  This plate type was introduced on the 1942 base and issued through 1958, as was the apparently related "SR" trailer plate type.  The meaning of the letters "SR" has been variously reported as "shuttle relay", "special rate", and "state roads"; the purpose of these plates as opposed to the regular truck tractor plates is unknown. 

Maryland truck plates, 1948-1953

There are several unsolved mysteries involving Maryland 1948-1953 non-passenger plates, and so it's not completely clear even which plate types were in fact used on trucks during this period. 

possible 1948 regular truck
possible 1948 truck

possible 1948 regular truck
possible 1948 truck
(Sallmen photo / plate)

1953 regular truck
1953 regular truck
(Jones photo / plate)
Regular trucks

Regular truck plates from 1948-1953 are best explained by discussing the 1952 base plate first, and then the 1948 base plate. 

Beginning in 1952, most Maryland non-passenger registrations were shifted to expire annually each April 30, while passenger car and motorcycle registrations continued to expire annually on March 31.  The 1952 expiration plates had the expiration month embossed on the plate.  Full-sized plates with all-numeric serials and no identifying legends, used for both passenger cars and regular trucks, therefore became readily distinguishable as to which vehicle type they were issued.  Serials numbers up to and including the 700-000 series indicated a March expiration month and therefore were assigned to passenger cars, while serial numbers in the 800-000 series indicated an April expiration and so were obviously used on trucks.  I've never seen a 1952 base plate in the 900-000 series, however. 

It seems to be a matter of debate whether truck plates had a distinct serial range prior to the 1952 plates.  Some sources say yes, high serial numbers were also reserved for trucks in earlier years; others say no, and claim to have photographic evidence that shows trucks with pre-1952 plates bearing low serial numbers.  I have not seen any of these photos myself. 

Having seen a good number of old Maryland plates myself, I've never come across one numbered 800-000 or higher until the 1948 base.  On the 1948 base, I've seen plenty of plates in both the 800-000 and 900-000 series.  Therefore, I submit that both camps may be partially correct, and it's quite possible that distinct serial ranges for trucks started with the 1948 plates.  I must confess, however, that all of this is mere conjecture on my part. 

That still leaves the mystery of why 900-000 series plates were issued on the 1948 base but apparently not on the 1952 base.  If all regular truck registrations could be issued within the 800-000 series for 1952, then obviously, the 800-000 and 900-000 series on the 1948 base could not have all been for regular trucks.  There were no plate types with significant numbers of registrations that were either discontinued after 1947 or started in 1952 that could serve to explain the 900-000 series on the 1948 base. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1948 base:  801-855, 809-310, 814-940, 825-811, 826-442, 828-860, 847-406, 850-088, 870-025, 873-948, 875-967, 877-895, 883-298, 890-931, 895-846, 903-800, 923-235, 925-263, 925-457, 944-699, 955-417, 971-337, 971-662, 973-793, 980-726, 986-069, 994-775, 997-962
  • 1952 base:  801-598, 811-288, 817-112, 822-900, 832-032, 839-702, 839-851, 840-105, 843-302, 846-713, 852-279, 853-571, 873-769, 880-652, 895-642
Solid tire vehicles

These plates continued to be produced, in ever-decreasing numbers, reportedly until the 1971 base.  The word Solid continued to run down either the left or right edge of the plate. 

1952 truck for hire
1952 truck for hire
Trucks for hire

Trucks for hire continued to use the stacked "C/H" prefix through 1953. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1948 base:  C/H 21-100, C/H 24-820
  • 1952 base:  C/H 18-319, C/H 20-604, C/H 21-367, C/H 25-758
"C" series plates

Another mystery involves plates with just a "C" prefix, also reported by others to have been made on the 1948 and 1952 bases, but observed so far only on the 1952 base by yours truly.  I've read what seems to be speculation that these might be for commercial vehicles (trucks), or perhaps for ambulances and hearses.  If they are truck plates, they would have to be for some specific, unusual type of truck, or else these plates would be vastly more common than the are. 

Since 1954, commercial ambulances and funeral vehicles have always had the letter "C" in the serial number, but whether these vehicles were identified this way prior to the 1954 plate is questionable in my mind, because no other class of vehicle used 1954-era letter codes prior to 1954. 

I discuss these "C" series plates in a bit more detail on my History of Maryland Commercial Passenger Vehicle Plates page.  But suffice to say that I really don't know what type of vehicle they were used for. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1952 base:  C28-389, C28-458, C28-474, C28-488, C28-653
1948 truck tractor
1948 truck tractor
(Jones photo and plate)

1952 truck tractor
1952 truck tractor
Truck tractors

A truck tractor is the front part of a tractor-trailer combination.  On the 1948 and 1952 bases, truck tractor plates have the partial word Trac running down the left side of the plate.  I guess this works regardless of whether you prefer the term "tractor" or "traction engine". 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1948 base:  7-519, 9-638
  • 1952 base:  7-751, 7-934
"SR" truck tractors

Beginning on the 1948 plate, this odd plate category became more convetional in appearance, with a stacked "S/R" prefix on the left, and the partial word Trac" running vertically down the right side.  Again, the meaning the of the letters "SR" is disputed and its purpose unknown. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1948 base:  7-423
  • 1952 base:  6-790
1951 farm truck, version 1
1951 farm truck, version 1
(Jones photo and plate)

1949 farm truck, version 2
1949 farm truck, version 2
(Willard plate)

1952 farm truck
1952 farm truck
(Jones photo and plate)
Farm trucks

This was a new plate type introduced on the 1948 expiration plate.  If they were anything like more recent farm truck plates, they were issued for straight trucks over 3/4 ton capacity that were used solely for agricultural purposes.  Vehicles with farm truck plates were not geographically restricted. 

On the 1948 base, the words Farm over Truck were displayed horizontally on the plate, to the left of the serial, on plates with four or fewer serial digits.  When five digits were needed, the plate type was embossed vertially on the left side of the plate.  On the 1952 base, all farm truck plates had the words Farm and Truck running vertically down the left and right edges of the plate, respectively. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1948 base:  514, 3-392, 3-535, 3-697, 4-102, 4-154, 4-206, 5-257, 6-035, 6-616, 6-760, 7-094, 7-365, 9-114, 10-674
  • 1952 base:  1-970, 2-916, 3-893, 6-832, 7-032, 8-011, 8-323, 11-649
Farm truck tractors

This was another new farm truck type introduced on the 1948 base.  The legend Farm Tractor was displayed horizontally, one word above the other, on the left portion of the plate.  I'm certain that these were not issued for actual farm tractors, but rather for truck tractors used solely for agricultural purposes.  Vehicles bearing these plates were also not geographically restricted. 

I do not believe that off-road farm equipment such as actual farm tractors, combines, and the like were ever required to display license plates, even when they were operated on public roads.  That's at least been the case since the 1960s. 

1951 farm area truck
1951 restricted-use farm truck
(Jones photo and plate)
Restricted-use farm trucks

The legend Farm Area Only was displayed horizontally, one word above the other, on the left portion of this new plate type.  "Farm area" plates were issued for farm-use trucks which could only use public roads within a 10 mile radius of the farm.  The most likely application was probably for farm trucks that were used mostly off-road, but which needed to use a road to get from one field to another. 

Plate numbers observed
  • 1948 base:  102
  • 1952 base:  1, 16

Maryland truck plates, 1954-1970

In the early 1950s, Maryland apparently made some significant changes to their vehicle classification system, and introduced new vehicle class codes to identify various types of vehicles.  These vehicle class codes continue, largely unchanged, all the way to the present day.  Beginning with the 1954 expiration plates, non-passenger plate serial formats have frequently included these vehicle class codes. 

In this classification system, straight trucks are consiered to be Class E vehicles, and truck tractors Class F.  Therefore, from this point forward, the letters "E" and "F" have often been fixed characters in plate numbers for straight trucks and truck tractors, respectively. 

1961 regular truck
1961 regular truck

1970 regular truck
1970 regular truck
Regular trucks

By "regular" truck, I mean an ordinary straight truck that doesn't fall into any special category.  Regular trucks were assigned the serial formats 00-00-Ex (1954-1964), 0000-Ex (1965-1969), and 0000 Ex (1970). Separators could be dashes, diamonds, or colons. 

Regular trucks, being Class E vehicles, were assigned serial numbers where the first alphabetic character was always the letter "E", for example "12-34-EA".  However, I believe that suffix "EH" was reserved for trucks for hire (see that item, below).  Plates with suffix letters other than "E something" were assigned to other classes of non-passenger vehicles.  As with most non-passenger vehicle plates, truck plates expired annually each April 30.  The actual expiration date was stamped on the 1957-1970 expiration plates. 

Regular truck special plate types

Beginning with the 1957 expiration plates, truck owners who were also amateur radio operators could obtain plates with their radio call sign as the plate serial number.  Car owners could do the same, but amateur radio plates issued to trucks can be identified by the April 30 expiration date.  These are addressed more fully in the History of Amateur Radio Operator Plates article. 

Solid tire vehicles

These plates continued to be produced, in ever-decreasing numbers, reportedly until the 1971 base.  The word Solid continued to run down either the left or right edge of the plate. 

1969 truck for hire
1969 truck for hire
Trucks for hire

I remember as a kid in the 1960s that the garbage trucks that rolled through my neighborhood bore non-passenger format 00-00-xx and 0000-xx plates, and I believe the suffix letters were sometimes "EH" and sometimes "HE".  The trucks were owned by a private business contracted by the county to collect refuse.  Other larger trucks also bore H-series non-passenger plates.  Of course, there was no legend to identify specifically what type of truck these plates were for. 

Since I've been collecting, I've seen several 1954-1970 plates with the "HE" suffix, and also a few expiring in 1963 and later years with the suffix "HF", which I don't specifically recall from my childhood.  I believe that originally, both "EH" and "HE" suffixes were used to signify "Class E for Hire", and when both series were exhausted, they just continued with "HF".  

This plate type was the successor to the previous "C/H" prefix plates.  It was discontinued and merged with regular trucks on the 1971 base. 

1958 truck tractor
1958 truck tractor

1968 truck tractor
1968 truck tractor
Truck tractors

Truck tractors that were not used by farmers, and I believe not used by motor carriers (trucking companies), were issued plates with the legend Trac displayed vertically down the right edge of the plate.  Serial formats were 00-00 (1954-1964) and 0000 (1965-1970); with format x000 also used at least during the latter years of this period. 

1958 "SR" truck tractor
1958 "SR" truck tractor
"SR" truck tractors

I honestly don't know what "SR" stood for or meant.  I've seen explanations that it stood for "shuttle relay" or "special rate" or "state roads".  But even if any of these are correct, there still is no explanation for what these terms actually meant, or what qualified a truck tractor for these "SR" plates rather than regular truck tractor plates.  These were last issued with 1958 expirations. 

There were also "SR" trailer plates issued during the same timeframe; I presume those were used on semi-trailers pulled by "SR" truck tractors.  "SR" truck tractor plates were only slightly less cryptic than their trailer brethern.  The serial was S/R00-00, with the legend Trac running down the right edge of the plate. 

1959 farm truck
Farm trucks

Farm truck plates were used for straight trucks over 3/4 ton capacity that were used solely for farming purposes.  Vehicles with these plates were not restricted geographically.  The words Farm and Truck ran vertically down the left and right sides of the plate, respectively.  Serial formats used were 00-00 and x0-00 from 1954 to 1964, and 0000 and x000 from 1965 to 1970. 

1962 farm truck tractor
1962 farm truck tractor
Farm truck tractors

The legend Farm Tractor was displayed horizontally, one word above the other, on the left portion of the plate.  I'm certain that these were not issued for actual farm tractors, but rather for truck tractors used solely for agricultural purposes.  Vehicles bearing these plates were also not geographically restricted.  This plate type was apparently issued in very small numbers.  I've only ever seen a few of these, and they've all had a single-digit serial number. 

Restricted-use farm trucks

"Farm area" plates were issued for farm-use trucks which could only use public roads within a 10 mile radius of the farm.  The most likely application was probably for farm trucks that were used mostly off-road, but which needed to use a road to get from one field to another.  These plates had the words Farm Area Only, or just Farm Area, stacked one above the other on the left side of the plate, followed by a numeric serial number on the right side.  Issued in small quantities. 

1960 dump truck
1960 dump truck
Dump trucks

This was apparently a new plate type introduced on the 1954 expiration plate.  Dump truck plates were, and still are, issued to both actual dump trucks and cement mixer trucks, since both are capable of dumping their loads.  These plates carried the word Dump vertically down the left side of the plate, and Truck or Trk down the right side of the plate.  One report says that Truck was used 1954-1956 and Trk was used 1957-1970, but this has been proven to be inaccurate.  Serial format was 00-00 1954 to 1964, and 0000 1965 to 1970.  Like most other non-passenger types, dump truck plates expired April 30 each year during this time. 

1957 motor carrier truck
1957 motor carrier truck
Motor carrier trucks

I don't remember much about these plates, but if they were anything like the 1976-1987 "Motor Freight" plates, they were used on both straight trucks and truck tractors operated by motor carriers, in other words, trucking companies.  The plates had the letters PSC and Frt running down the left and right edges of the plate, respectively.  Motor carriers were regulated by the state Public Service Commission, hence the "PSC", while "Frt" was short for "Freight", to distinguish these truck plates from those issued to motor carrier buses. 

How a motor carrier truck differed from a truck for hire, and why the former was regulated by the PSC while the latter apparently was not, I'm not clear.  I'd speculate that motor carriers traveled over specific routes and/or long distances, while other trucks for hire were probably just used locally. 

1968 local government truck
1968 local government truck
Local government trucks

Government-owned trucks are not covered on this page, but you might not have even known this was a government vehicle plate without some help.  Maryland plates with an embossed star on them were issued for vehicles owned by local government bodies, such as cities, towns, counties, and school districts.  On 1968-1970 expiration plates only, such plates issued for trucks actually had the word Truck embossed below the star.  State government-owned trucks similarly had the legend State Truck, without a star, during these same years.  These plates are covered more fully on the History of Maryland Government Plates page. 

Maryland truck plates, 1971-1975

Because of the embossed year and the sticker box in the lower corners of the 1971 base plate, non-passenger plate types that had previously used vertical legends were either changed to have horizontal legends on the left side of the plate, or to do without an identifying legend.  Also, in some cases accommodations had to be made since more plates would be issued over the five year life of this base, than had been issued on the previous annual plates. 

Expiration dates of all truck plates, as well as most other non-passenger plate types, continued to be April 30 of the year indicated on the plate or renewal sticker, even though the month and day were no longer indicated. 

1972 regular truck
1972 regular truck

1975 regular truck with 1976 dies
1975 regular truck, made
using 1976 serial dies
Regular trucks

Regular trucks continued with the serial format 0000 xx begun on the 1970 expiration plates, with a space but no separator character.  The first serial letter could be a D, E, or J.  Distinct truck-for-hire plates were eliminated on the 1971 base, and such vehicles were instead given regular truck plates. 

Since on the 1970 expiration plate the "E" series suffixes had nearly been exhausted, regular trucks were initially assigned serials with the first alphabetic character "D" (which otherwise wasn't being used on non-passenger plates, since motorcycles are Class D vehicles).  When that letter series was used up, the familiar "E" series returned.  But, the 1971 base being a five year plate, all of the "E" combinations were eventually exhausted as well.  When that happened, the next letter chosen for the next series was "J". 

Late-issue "J" series plates with natural 1975 expirations were made using the serial dies from the 1976 expiration base plates that were being manufactured concurrently. 

1975 Firemen's Association personal truck
1975 Firemen's Association
member's personal truck
(version 2)
Regular truck special plate types

On the 1971 base, amateur radio operator plates, handicapped plates, and probably vanity plates were available for light truck registrations, but to my knowledge there was no way to distinguish such a plate issued to a truck versus one issued to a car. 

Organizational member plates were offered to members of the Maryland State Firemen's Association for their personal trucks.  These plates for trucks were distinct from similar plates used on personal cars.  The truck plates were originally issued as non-graphic plates with reserved serial format 0000 FD, but during the life of this base, they were replaced with embossed graphic plates with serial format 00000 [F/D], where the letters were inside of an embossed embossed maltese cross emblem.  These were the first Maryland organizational member truck plates, and the only ones issued on the 1971 base.  These truck plates are covered more fully on the History of Maryland Organizational Member Plates page. 

Solid tire vehicles

It has been reported that a very small number of these plates were produced on the 1971 base, but none were actually issued.  The word Solid appeared horizontally on the left side of the plate. 

1975 truck tractor
1975 truck tractor
Truck tractors

Truck tractor plates lost their "Trac" legend, and instead shared the serial format 0000 xx with other non-passenger plate types.  Truck tractors, being Class F vehicles, were assigned serial numbers with the first alphabetic character always "F", starting in the FA series.  These got at least up to the high FC series, maybe into the FE series.  The FD series was not used for truck tractors, but rather, as mentioned above, were firefighter personal truck plates.  Plates with format 0000 FR were motor carrier truck plates. 

1975 farm truck

1975 farm truck with 1976 dies
1975 farm truck, made
using 1976 serial dies
Farm trucks

Farm truck plates were used for straight trucks over 3/4 ton capacity that were used solely for farming purposes and were not geographically limited.  The plates had the words Farm Truck embossed horizontally on the left portion of the plate, followed by a four-character serial number.  Serial formats 0000 and x000 were used. 

A small number of late-issue farm truck plates with natural 1975 expirations were made using the smaller serial dies from the 1976 expiration base plates.  Plate number J160 at left is the only one of these I've ever seen.  Notice that they also used smaller dies for the plate type legend Farm Truck on this plate. 

Farm truck tractors

The legend Farm Tractor was displayed horizontally, one word above the other, on the left portion of the plate, with a serial number of unknown format on the right side.  These were not issued for actual farm tractors, but rather for truck tractors used solely for agricultural purposes.  Vehicles bearing these plates were also not geographically restricted. 

1972 farm area truck
1972 restricted-use farm truck
Restricted-use farm trucks

"Farm area" plates were issued for farm-use trucks which could only use public roads within a 10 mile radius of the farm.  The most likely application was probably for farm trucks that were used mostly off-road, but which needed to use a road to get from one field to another.  These plates had the words Farm Area, stacked one above the other on the left side of the plate, followed by a numeric serial number on the right side.  Issued in small quantities. 

1975 dump truck
Dump trucks

Both actual dump trucks and cement mixer trucks were issued license plates with the words Dump Truck embossed horizontally on the left portion of the plate, followed by a four-digit serial number in format 0000.  Dump truck expiration dates continued to be April 30 each year. 

Motor carrier trucks

I don't remember much about these plates, but if they were anything like the 1976-1987 "Motor Freight" plates, they were used on both straight trucks and truck tractors operated by motor carriers, in other words, trucking companies.  Motor carrier truck plates were issued in serial format 0000 FR, and had no identifying legend.  I presume the "FR" was short for "freight". 

Maryland truck plates, 1976-1987

There were two base plates during this period, the red-on-white base used for 1976-1980 expirations, and the black-on-white base issued for 1981-1986 expirations and renewed for late 1986 and 1987 expirations.  Both bases were undated and were used without year stickers during their first registration year.  Plate types, layouts, legends, and serial formats were for the most part identical on both bases.  Nearly all non-passenger plate types had an identifying legend at the bottom edge of the plate. 

Registrations of all truck types except for dump trucks continued to expire each April 30 of the year indicated on the sticker through 1986.  Dump trucks were switched to May 31 expirations beginning with the registration expiring in 1976.  Personal light trucks were converted to staggered expiration dates upon expiration of their registration in April 1986; the final registration period for this base was then between October 1986 and September 1987.  All other trucks retained their April or May expiration dates, but nevertheless used month stickers for their 1987 expirations. 

1976 truck
1976 regular truck

1987 truck
1987 regular personal truck
Regular trucks

Regular trucks, as well a number of other non-passenger types, were assigned serial format x 00000.  The serial letters used for regular trucks were H, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, and V.  These letters had no special meaning; the serials were simply assigned consecutively through this range of letters.  (Letters I, O, Q, and U were not used for any plate type, while S and T were reserved for state-owned vehicles and farm trucks, respectively.)  The R- and V- series plates were only used on the 1981-1987 black-on-white base.  The word Truck was embossed on the bottom center of the plates, greatly simplifying type identification. 

1980 truck - handicapped
1980 truck – handicapped

1980 truck - vanity
1980 truck – vanity

1980 Firemen's Association personal truck
1980 Firemen's Association
member's personal truck

1986 Veterans of Foreign Wars personal truck
1986 Veterans of Foreign
Wars member's truck
Regular truck special plate types

On these two bases, amateur radio operator plates, handicapped plates, and vanity plates were all available for light truck registrations.  All of these, when issued for a truck, had the same Truck legend at the bottom as did regular truck plates.  These truck plates are addressed more fully in their respective articles on the History of Maryland Miscellaneous Personal Vehicle Plates page. 

Organizational plates were available to members of a few specific groups for use on their personal trucks.  In each instance, however, the organizational plates in question already had a different layout and serial format than regular passenger car plates, which wasn't usually the case.  The truck versions of these plates then just had the Truck legend at the bottom to distinguish them from the car versions.  These truck plates are covered more fully on the History of Maryland Organizational Member Plates page. 

Trucks were not eligible to receive the optional Bicentennial or 350th Anniversary plates that were issued during this time period. 

1981 truck tractor
1981 truck tractor
Truck tractors

Despite the Tractor legend, these plates were in fact not issued for farm tractors, but rather for truck tractors.  A truck tractor is the front part of a tractor-trailer combination, also known as a "big rig" or an "18 wheeler". 

Truck tractors not used in farming or by trucking companies were assigned serial format xx 0000, along with several other non-passenger plate types.  The first letter was always "F", indicating the vehicle class.  Prefixes FA, FB, FC, and FE were issued on both bases.  Prefix FD was still avoided, even though it no longer conflicted with firefighter organizational plates. 

1981 farm truck
1981 farm truck
Farm trucks

Farm truck plates were used for straight trucks over 3/4 ton capacity that were used solely for farming purposes and were not geographically limited.  These plates had serial format T 00000, and the abbreviated legend Farm Trk embossed at the bottom center. 

1985 farm truck tractor
1985 farm truck tractor
Farm truck tractors

Truck tractors used for farming were issued plates with the somewhat cryptic legend Farm Tk Tr embossed at the bottom center.  Once you realize that this stood for "Farm Truck Tractor", the plate becomes much more clear in its purpose than the words "Farm Tractor" used on previous bases for this class of vehicle.  Serial format was TT 000; I don't know whether this plate type reached four-digit numbers or not.  Vehicles bearing these plates were also not geographically restricted. 

1985 farm area truck
1985 restricted-use farm truck
Restricted-use farm trucks

"Farm area" plates were issued for farm-use trucks which could only use public roads within a 10 mile radius of the farm.  The most likely application was probably for farm trucks that were used mostly off-road, but which needed to use a road to get from one field to another.  Serial formats 000 and 0000 were used, and the plates bore the embossed legend Farm Area at the bottom center, which served to identify the location to which such vehicles were restricted. 

1983 dump truck
1983 dump truck (version 1)

1986 dump truck
1986 dump truck (version 2)
Dump trucks

Dump trucks and cement mixers were initially issued plates with serial format DT 0000, and with the legend Dump Trk embossed at the bottom center.  When this format was exhaused on the 1981-1987 base, format DT00000 was introduced; however, on these plates the letters "DT" were stamped using extra-narrow dies, while the numbers were embossed using the standard dies. 

Fellow plate historian Jeff Ellis reports that 1975-1976 dump truck plate registrations originally expired on April 30 as they always had, but then during the registration year the expiration date was shifted by one month to May 31.  Jeff has in his posession a letter from the Maryland MVA to dump truck owners explaining this change.  Dump trucks plates then expired on May 31 each year until the late 1990s.  This was the only class of Maryland plates that expired on a date other than March 31 or April 30 during the years 1939-1986. 

Also according to Jeff, the state ran out of the pre-staggered-era white-on-red 1986 stickers in April 1986 when it still needed them for new dump truck registrations expiring on May 31, 1986. Therefore, a small number of very late-issue all-embossed dump truck plates were issued with the May month sticker and the black-on-white staggered-era 1986 sticker.  Of course, most or all of these were covered up a month later with the 1987 renewal sticker. 

1987 motor carrier truck
1987 motor carrier truck
Motor carrier trucks

Motor carrier truck plates had the serial format MF 0000, with the letters "MF" remaining constant, and had the legend Mtr Frt embossed at the bottom center of the plate.  This cryptic legend would appear to stand for "motor freight".  What it really stood for was "motor carrier freight", or in other words, "motor carrier truck"; there was a separate plate type with the legend "Mtr Bus" used for motor carrier buses.  "Motor carrier" is a term that means a commercial vehicle that carries freight or passengers for hire. 

United Parcel Service (UPS) delivery trucks bore motor carrier freight plates during these years, as did truck tractors owned by trucking companies such as Roadway Express.  During the 1987 general replacement, all trucks that had previously carried motor carrier freight plates were assigned either regular truck plates or truck tractor plates on the new base, as appropriate. 

1984 tow truck
Tow trucks

Tow trucks had been issued regular truck plates until 1983, then their regular truck plates were recalled and replaced with plates with format 0000 TT and bearing the legend Tow Truck.  Probably format TT 0000 was avoided just in case farm truck tractor plates ever got past serial TT 999.  The 1984 expiration plate shown is a natural first-year issue. 

Note that red-on-white plates with the legend "Wrecker" are not tow truck plates.  These were akin to dealer plates, and were issued to junkyard operators to facilitate the movement of unregistered, operable vehicles.  The "Wrecker" legend was later changed to the more politically correct term "Recycler". 

Maryland truck plates, 1986-present

Maryland introduced what I'll call the "shield" base (although not all types actually have the sheild) for new registrations between Feburary and May 1986, depending on the plate type.  The shield base was then issued as a general replacement for existing registrations as they expired between October 1986 and September 1987.  These plates are still being issued today, in some cases with minor changes to the plate design or serial format.  Plates issued on this base in 1986 are still valid if continually registered. 

Jeff Ellis reports that regular truck plates were issued on this base as early as February 1986, and since company-owned trucks had fixed April 30 expirations at that point, such plates issued in February and March 1986 received natural April 1986 expiration stickers.  The same may be true for other truck plate types, although, also according to Jeff, dump truck plates were not issued on the new base until May 1986.  It's also likely that a small number of personal truck plates were issued on this base with natural October through December 1986 expirations.  This was only done under unusual circumstances, but it did happen. 

Maryland entered the International Registration Plan in 1988, and began issuing Apportioned plates to commercial vehicles that cross state lines.  The first of these had April 1989 expirations.  There are four different apportioned truck plate types issued, for regular straight trucks, truck tractors, dump trucks, and tow trucks.  Each of these are addressed in turn, below. 

1988 regular truck
1988 regular truck (version 1)

2000 regular truck
2000 regular truck (version 2)

2008 regular truck
2008 regular truck (version 3)
Regular trucks

Regular trucks, including personal pickup trucks and heavy commercial trucks, are issued the same style of graphic plates, with the script Maryland and the shield separator, as are passenger cars.  There is no legend identifying these plates as truck plates; instead, they have distinct serial formats.  Straight trucks that had been issued motor carrier freight plates on the previous base were given regular truck plates during the general replacement in April 1987. 

Initially, the regular truck serial format was 000*000, starting at serial number 300*000 to avoid duplication with previous-base motorcycle plates still on the road.  Once serial 999*999 was reached, the sequence rolled over to 000*001 and continued until it reached 299*999 in the spring of 1992, exhausting the format.  A second format of 00x*000 was then begun; regular truck plates continued to be issued in that format through June 2010.  The serial letter has no hidden meaning; the letter was the last character to advance as the numbers revolved around it.  The state government web address www.maryland.gov was added to the bottom of the plates in early 2005, beginning at about serial 23R*000. 

Personal light trucks have always had staggered registrations on these bases, while company-owned and heavy trucks initially continued with fixed April 30 expiration dates.  Between July 1992 and June 1994, personal light trucks were converted to two-year registration periods.  Approximately 1999, all other regular trucks went to staggered registrations, and company-owned light trucks began two-year registrations.  Heavy regular trucks continued with one-year registrations. 

Effective June 14, 2010, the state stopped issuing regular truck plates.  Since that date, reguar trucks are being issued the new standard War of 1812 plates, regardless of the weight of the truck.  However, there's absolutely no difference between the plates issued for cars and those issued for regular trucks on this base.  These are covered in detail on the History of Passenger Car Plates page.  The black-on-white regular truck plates were in the late "X" series when they were discontinued; however, these plates may continue to be renewed.  I presume that heavy trucks continue with one-year registrations regardless of which base plate they were issued. 

2000 Chesapeake gen 1 truck
2000 first generation
Treasure the Chesapeake
light truck
Regular truck special plate types

Amateur radio operator plates, handicapped plates, vanity plates, organizational member plates, and military service plates are all available for light truck registrations, but there is no difference between such plates issued for trucks versus cars. 

The first generation Treasure the Chesapeake special interest plate, issued between 1990 and 2003 with dark green serial characters, was available for a number of vehicle types, including trucks up to one ton capacity.  Each vehicle type was issued plates with a distinct serial format; the truck serial format was 0xx*000.  The first digit was always "1".  Serial characters advanced like an odometer, from right to left.  It's been reported that the highest truck serial issued on this base was 1EY*899.  These plates remain valid if continually registered. 

Regular trucks up to 10,000 pounds G.V.W. may also obtain the Our Farms, Our Future, second-generation Treasure the Chesapeake, and limited edition 1910 Vintage special interest plates.  However, there's absolutely no difference between the plates issued for cars and those issued for regular trucks.  These are covered in detail on the History of Passenger Car Plates page. 

undated apportioned regular truck
Apportioned regular truck
unstickered front plate
Apportioned regular trucks

Regular truck apportioned plates are assigned serials in the format 000*E00, where the letter "E" is constant and indicates the vehicle class code for regular trucks.  Also see the General Information for All Apportioned Plate Types article below. 

1988 truck tractor
1988 truck tractor (version 1)

current truck tractor
Truck tractor with a missing
year sticker and a green
special interest month sticker
(version 2)
(Jackson photo of plate in use)
Truck tractors

Truck tractors were assigned serial format 000*00F, with the last character always "F", indicating the vehicle class.  There is no legend identifying the plate as a truck tractor plate.  Truck tractors that had been issued motor carrier freight plates on the previous base were given truck tractor plates during the general reissue in April 1987.  This plate type was initially issued for all truck tractors, but since 1988 it's only been used for non-apportioned truck tractors, of which there are relatively few.  The state web site was added to the bottom of non-apportioned truck tractor plates at roughly serial 302*00F. 

Plate historian Jeff Ellis reports that stickers initially went on the rear plate, but beginning with 1989 expirations (perhaps not coincidentally, the first expiration year for apportioned plates), expiration stickers for both apportioned and non-apportioned truck tractors were placed on the front plate.  Jeff also reports that Maryland stopped issuing pairs of truck tractor plates in about 2003 or 2004; now just a single plate is issued to be placed on the front of the vehicle. 

2009 apportioned truck tractor
2009 apportioned truck tractor
(plate in actual use)
Apportioned truck tractors

Truck tractor apportioned plates are assigned serials in the format 000*F00, where the letter "F" is constant and indicates the vehicle class code for truck tractors.  Also see the General Information for All Apportioned Plate Types article below. 

1988 farm truck
1988 farm truck
Farm trucks

Farm truck plates are used for straight trucks over 10,000 pounds G.V.W. that are used solely for farming purposes and are not geographically limited.  These plates have serial format 000*00F/T; the F and T are stacked one above the other and occupy one space on the plate.  The legend Farm is screened at the bottom center of the plate. 

undated "Our Farms" farm truck
Our Farms farm truck
unstickered front plate
Farm truck special plate type

Shortly after the Our Farms, Our Future special interest plate was introduced for cars, light trucks, and a few other vehicle types, it dawned on someone that this optional plate ought to also be made available for farm trucks, too, and so this is the result.  The serial format for farm trucks using this base is F/T 00000; there is no legend that identifies the plate as being for farm trucks. 

2011 farm truck tractor
2011 farm truck tractor
(Ellis photo of plate in use)
Farm truck tractors

Truck tractors used for farming are issued plates in the format 000*00T/R, with the letters T and R stacked one above the other, and the legend Farm screened on the bottom center of the plate.  Like other truck tractor plate types, these are also now issued as single plates to be placed on the front of the vehicle only. 

2006 farm area truck
2006 restricted-use farm truck
(version 1)

2013 restricted use
2013 restricted-use farm truck
or island vehicle (version 2)
(plate in actual use)
Restricted-use farm trucks and island vehicles

"Farm area" plates continue to be issued for farm-use trucks which can only use public roads within a 10 mile radius of the farm.  On the shield base, these plates have serial format 000*00K, with no legend to identify the plate type.  The "K" is fixed, as farm area trucks are Class K registrations.  At some point in 2005 or later, the state web site address was added to the bottom of the plate, starting at about plate number 125*00K. 

Beginning October 1, 2006, Class K has been expanded to include both farm area trucks and island vehicles, and since then, the same K-suffixed plates are issued to both.  Island vehicles are defined as vehicles that are driven only on islands that have no highway access to the mainland, regardless of vehicle type or usage.  So, a K-suffixed plate with no web site legend was most likely issued to a farm area truck, while one with a web site legend might have gone to either a farm area truck or an island vehicle.  I was told that registration periods for Class K plates were for one year only, but the September 2013 expiration plate show at left was phtographed in October 2011. 

1990 dump truck
1990 dump truck (version 1)

undated dump truck
Dump truck unstickered
front plate (version 2)
(plate in actual use)
Dump trucks

Both dump trucks and cement mixers are issued dump truck plates, which have serial format E00000D, and no legend to identify the vehicle type.  The state web site was added to the bottom of these plates approximately in late 2005, beginning at about serial number E35000D. 

Originally on this base, dump trucks continued with fixed May 31 expirations and one year registration periods.  Expirations became staggered in the 1998-1999 time frame, but registration periods remain one year. 

2006 apportioned dump truck
2006 apportioned dump truck
Apportioned dump trucks

Apportioned dump trucks and cement mixers are assigned plates in rather odd format 000*E/D00, with the letters E and D stacked one above the other, and bearing the legend Apportioned along the bottom.  Also see the General Information for All Apportioned Plate Types article below. 

1994 tow truck
1994 tow truck (version 1)

2011 tow truck
2011 tow truck (version 5)
(Ellis phtoo of plate in use)
Tow trucks and "rollback" trucks

Tow trucks were originally issued plates on this base with serial format TT0*000, and no identifying legend.  When that format was exhausted, then format 000*0TT was begun.  In the summer of 2005, the second format also became history, and new plates are now issued in format 00000TT.  The web site legend was added in late 2005, beginning at approximately serial number 00700TT; this was replaced with the legend Tow Truck in 2010 somewhere near plate number 07000TT. 

"Rollback" trucks, the type on which a disabled vehicle sits on the bed of the truck, have largely replaced traditional tow trucks.  Both, however, are issued tow truck plates. 

Summary of tow truck plate versions 1986-present
1994 tow truck undated tow truck 2009 tow truck 2011 tow truck
  1. Six serial characters, "TT" in positions 1 and 2
  2. Six serial characters, "TT" in positions 5 and 6 (unstickered front plate)
  3. Seven serial characters, "TT" in positions 6 and 7, no legend (not shown)
  4. Seven serial characters, "TT" in positions 6 and 7, web site legend (plate in actual use)
  5. Seven serial characters, "TT" in positions 6 and 7, Tow Truck legend (Ellis photo of plate in use)
Apportioned "rollback" trucks

"Rollback" trucks which are used both for transporting disabled vehicles, and for shipping vehicles across state lines as freight, are issued apportioned plates with the rather odd format 000*T/E00, where the letters T and E are stacked one above the other, and which bear the legend Apportioned along the bottom.  Apparently, there's no need for apportioned plates to just transport disabled vehicles or actually tow vehicles across state lines.  Also see the General Information for All Apportioned Plate Types article below. 

General information for all apportioned plate types

Maryland entered the International Registration Plan in 1988, and began issuing Apportioned plates to commercial vehicles that cross state lines.  The first of these had April 1989 expirations.  There are six different apportioned plate types issued, for regular straight trucks, truck tractors, dump trucks, and tow trucks, as well as for buses and trailers.  The apportioned trailer plate type has been discontinued.  All apportioned plates have the legend Apportioned at the bottom of the plate. 

Initially, all apportioned plates expired annually each April 30.  In 1999, apportioned registrations were partially staggered so that they expire at the end of either January, April, July, or October; however, registrations are still for a single year at a time.  Apportioned year stickers for 2005 expirations inexplicably were white on green, rather than black on white as used for most other plates types.  Likewise, 2010 apportioned year stickers are black on white, rather than the green on white used on most other plates.  Otherwise, the stickers have been the same as were used for non-appoortioned plates. 

Related links

Page credits

Thanks to those who have directly contributed to the information on this page:  Jeff Ellis, Christopher Jackson, Rick Clark, "Tiger" Joe Sallmen, Reese Jones, Richard Hafer, and John Willard.  Francis, Anshant, and Willard plates are from the collections of Jeff Francis, John Anshant, and John Willard, respectively. 

Clark, Ellis, Sallmen, Jackson, Jones, and Hafer photographs are presumed to be copyrighted by Rick Clark, Jeff Ellis, "Tiger" Joe Sallmen, Christopher Jackson, Reese Jones, and Richard Hafer, respectively, and are used with permission. 


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