North Carolina truck license plate

Rick Kretschmer's License Plate Archives 

North Carolina truck license plate

A Pictorial History of North Carolina License Plates

Truck plates dated 1942 to present

 

This page provides a narrative history, with accompanying photos, of various types of truck license plates issued by North Carolina from 1942 to the present day. 

Latest noteworthy updates to this page
  • September 5, 2013  –  Added 1942-1955 truck plate sections, with photos.  Added photos of a permanent commercial (heavy duty) truck plate in serial format YA100000, and a weighted (medium duty) truck flat vanity plate.  Minor text updates. 
  • October 23, 2010  –  Added a photo of a 1983 light truck plate.  Upgraded photo of a current apportioned heavy truck plate.  Minor text updates. 

Introduction

This page addresses all types of North Carolina truck plates dated from 1942 to the present; eventually it will be expanded to cover all years. 

North Carolina license plates with an embossed year, or with a year sticker but no month sticker, indicate the registration year.  Such plates and/or stickers supposedly expired each December 31, but at least in the later years, a 46-day grace period effectively extended the registration period through February 15 of the following year.  Most non-passenger plate types had these annual calendar year registrations through 2005, and began staggered registrations in January 2006.  Staggerered registrations have a 15-day grace period following the month and year indicated on the stickers that extend the registration to the 15th of the following month.  North Carolina has consistently issued single plates since 1956. 

I generally don't collect North Carolina license plates, except in cases where I need them as part of a set.  (For example, I have a 1959 N.C. plate in my collection as part of my 1959 U.S. passenger plate set.)  Therefore, unlike most pages on this web site, very few, if any, of the plates shown here are actually from my collection, and I haven't meticulously identified each plate that's not from my collection.  However, unless noted otherwise, I did photograph all plates shown. 

So why do I even have North Carolina plate pages on my web site?  Well, I've lived in North Carolina since 2001, and so I've become very familiar with the current plates from daily observation.  As a collector, I also regularly encounter some of the more common older North Carolina plate types.  There's also not a whole lot of information already on the web regarding North Carolina license plate history.  While I make no claim of being an expert on North Carolina plates, I do feel like I can make a contribution by documenting what I do know. 

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 photo of a plate that's not shown, please send me an e-mail.  There's a link to my e-mail address at the bottom of every page. 

North Carolina truck plates, 1942-1949

1944 truck?
Possible 1944 truck
(Madsen photo / plate)

1949 truck?
Possible 1949 truck
(Baldwin photo / plate)
Regular trucks

Information about 1942-1949 North Carolina regular truck plates is scant and contradictory.  Apparently, at least between 1944 and 1949, regular truck plates were indistinguishable from passenger car plates, except that car and truck plate numbers were in distinct blocks of numbers. 

The confusion lies in what block of numbers was assigned to what type of vehicle.  I tend to believe the report that truck plates were numbered 100-000 to 199-999 during the years 1942 to 1946, were numbered 800-000 and higher in 1947 and 1948, and in 1949, began somewhere between 760-000 and 800-000 and went up from there, but I'm not prepared to state any of this as fact. 

From what I can gather, 1942 truck plates were definitely numbered in the 100-000 series and can be confirmed to be truck plates by the presence of a small letter "B" stacked over a numeric weight class code in the center of the plate, as was done in preceding years, instead of the dash used on passenger car plates.  I have not seen a 100-000 series 1942 North Carolina plate to be able to confirm or refute this information. 

No 1943 plates were issued; instead, a small "43" tab was attached to the lower right corner of the 1942 plate, covering the year "42". 

1942-1943 interstate trucks

The interstate truck type was apparently issued only from 1933 through 1943.  On the 1942 plate, the letters "IS" over "T" are located to the left of the numeric plate number.  The 1942 plate was renewed for 1943 with a small "43" tab attached to the lower right corner of the plate, covering the year "42". 

Farm trucks

The farm truck plate type was introduced in 1942.  At least it could be readily identified as such; they had the word Farmer across the bottom of the plate during this period.  Serial numbers were in the low 900-000 series between 1942 and 1946, and in the upper 900-000 series between 1947 and 1949. 

North Carolina truck plates, 1950-1955

(no picture available)

Regular trucks

The state eliminated the confusion regarding whether a given plate was a car plate or a truck plate, for six years, anyway, by clearly identifying truck plates.  The basic design of 1950-1955 truck plates was unchanged from previous years, except that the text Truck - N.C. was substituted for North Carolina along the bottom of the plate.  Regular truck plate numbers ranged from the mid 700-000 series to the mid 900-000 series during these years.  In 1955, all available numbers were issued, and a new series in format Y-00000 was used for regular trucks. 

Common carrier trucks (and buses)

Common carrier plates were apparently being issued in 1950, if not earlier, and are reported to have been issued to both trucks and buses.  I presume these were used on vehicles carrying cargo or passengers for compensation over fixed routes.  Serial format was F-00000.  Unlike regular truck plates, there was no identifying legend; the "F" prefix letter was the sole means to identify this plate type. 

Contract carrier trucks

Contract carrier truck plates also may have been introduced in 1950.  I presume these were also used on trucks carrying cargo for compensation, but on variable routes.  Serial format was also x-00000, but there seems to be some confusion over whether the prefix letter was "H" or "S".  Unlike regular truck plates, there was no identifying legend; the prefix letter, whichever it was, was the sole means to identify this plate type.  Apparently charter buses were not issued contract carrier plates, as they had their own plate type. 

Farm trucks

Starting in 1950, the word Farmer was replaced with the the words Farm Truck on these plates, but otherwise the plates were unchanged from previous years.  Plate numbers started in the the mid 900-000 series. 

North Carolina truck plates, 1956-1972

Beginning in 1956, North Carolina began a new numbering scheme for many of its non-passenger plate types, including trucks.  The serial numbers consisted of one to four numeric digits, followed by one or two letters; however, neither lead zeroes nor the number 1000 were used.  In other words, serial formats 0-x, 00-x, 000-x, 0000-x, 0-xx, 00-xx, 000-xx, and 0000-xx were all used for various non-passenger plate types.  Due to the number of possible combinations, format 0000-xx was by far the most common.  All of these formats were used through 1973.  The single letter, or the first letter, indicated the plate type.  1956 also was the first year for North Carolina to adopt the North American standard 6 inch by 12 inch plate dimensions. 

Truck plate colors were the same as passenger car plates during these years. 

1966 truck
1966 regular truck
(Fox photo of YOM plate in
actual use)


1967 truck
1967 regular truck
(YOM plate in actual use)
Regular trucks

Suffixes S, Sx, T, Tx, V, and Vx (with the lower case "x" indicating a variable letter) were used on plates issued to regular trucks, both privately-owned trucks and commercial trucks not addressed by any other plate type.  These letters were not weight class codes, but rather were just assigned sequentially.  S and Sx suffixes were used during all of these years; the remaining suffixes were added as the number of registered trucks grew in the later years of this range.  The earliest T series plate I've encountered was from 1959, and the earliest V series plate I've come across was dated 1970; of course, either letter might have made its debut earlier. 

Regular truck plates had no identifying legends; the state name, year, and legends were the same as passenger car plates each year.  While other truck plate categories changed serial formats and letter codes in 1973, regular trucks continued with their 1956-1972 formats and letter codes once again in 1973, and then made similar changes beginning in 1974. 

Common carrier trucks (and buses)

Common carrier plates are reported to have been issued to both trucks and buses.  I presume these were used on vehicles carrying cargo or passengers for compensation over fixed routes.  Like regular truck plates, there was no identifying legend; through 1972, the suffix letter(s) F and Fx were the sole means to identify this plate type. 

Contract carrier trucks

I presume these were also used on trucks carrying cargo for compensation, but on variable routes.  Like regular truck plates, there was no identifying legend; through 1972, the suffix letter H was the sole means to identify this plate type.  Apparently charter buses were not issued contract carrier plates, as they had their own plate type. 

1972 farm truck
(YOM plate in actual use)
Farm trucks

Farm truck plates used suffixes R and Rx from 1956 through 1972.  Farm truck plates bore the legends Farm Truck N.C. during 1956-1963, and Farm Truck – N C beginning in 1964, in place of North Carolina used on passenger cars and regular trucks.  As far as I know, from 1956 to the present, farm truck plates are the only plate type that actually have the word "truck" embossed on the plate.  The year and any other legends corresponded to other plate types. 

North Carolina truck plates, 1973-1980

Passenger car plates abandoned serial format xx-0000 in favor of xxx-000 in 1973.  So, also in 1973, most non-passenger plate types that had previously used suffix letters now began using the newly available serial format xx-0000.  Single letters, fewer than four numeric digits, and lead zeroes were all avoided, so each letter series began with serial number 1001.  Sometimes the first letter, and sometimes both letters; were used to distinguish one plate type from another.  Beginning in 1975, the appearance and colors of truck plates began to deviate from passenger car plates.  However, between 1973 and 1977, various types of truck plates (except for 1977 apportioned trucks) were consistent with each other in terms of plate colors and location of the embossed year on the plate, as shown in the following table: 

1973 –  red on reflective white   – 19 and 73 in top corners 1976 –  green on reflective white   – 1976 at bottom center
1974 –  green on reflective white   – 1974 at top center 1977 –  red on reflective white   – 1977 at top center
1975 –  red on reflective white   – 1975 at top center
Regular trucks, 1973

Unlike other truck types, regular trucks continued with their 1956-1972 serial formats and letter codes for one additional year. 

1977 regular truck
1977 regular truck
Regular trucks, 1974-1977

Prefix letters started at AA and went up to at least DZ and probably higher.  Again, there was no legend to identify the plate type.  As far as I know, no distiction was made between light, medium, or heavy trucks. 

Regular light trucks, 1978-1980

Light trucks were segregated from medium and heavy trucks beginning in 1978.  Both were issued green on white 1978 plates with serial format xx-0000 and no identifying legend, but light trucks were issued specific two-letter prefixes in the Cx, Dx, Ex, Hx, Jx, and Kx series.  Also, these light truck plates had the year 1978 located at the top center of the plate, and the state name along the bottom of the plate, both of which differed from medium and heavy truck plates.  Light truck plates were then validated with stickers, the same as those used on passenger plates, for 1979 and subsequent years through 1983.  New light truck plates issued in subsequent years through 1982 continued to be green on white and continued to have the year 1978 embossed on the plate. 

1978 –   green on reflective white   –  1978 at top center (renewed with passenger stickers through 1983)
1978 medium or heavy truck
1978 regular medium or
heavy truck
(O'Connor photo / plate)

1980 medium or heavy truck
1980 regular medium or
heavy truck
Regular medium and heavy trucks, 1978-1980

Medium and heavy trucks were segregated from light trucks beginning in 1978.  Both were issued green on white 1978 plates with serial format xx-0000 and no identifying legend, but medium and heavy trucks were issued distinct Ax and Bx serial prefixes.  Medium and heavy truck plates also differed from light truck plates in that the year 1978 was indicated in the lower corners of the plate, with 19 in the lower left corner, and 78 in the lower right corner.  The state name was along the top of the plate.  Unlike light trucks, medium and heavy trucks continued to receive new annual plates in subsequent years.  Medium and heavy truck plates continued to use serial prefixes Ax and Bx with no identifying legend in 1979 and 1980. 

1978 –   green on reflective white   –  19 and 78 in bottom corners
1979 –   red on reflective white   –  1979 at top center
1980 –   green on reflective white   –  1980 at bottom center
Apportioned trucks (and buses)

North Carolina began issuing apportioned plates in 1977.  These were used by commercial trucks, trailers, and fixed-route buses that crossed state lines.  As far as I know, trucks and buses of all weight classes were issued the same type of apportioned plates with serial format Lx-0000.  The state name was spelled out in full along the opposite edge of the plate from the year and Apportioned legend.  These plates were issued annually.  Apportioned trailer plates were different. 

1977 –   red on reflective white   –  19 Apportioned 77 across top of plate
1978 –   green on reflective white   –  19 Apportioned 78 across bottom of plate
1979 –   red on reflective white   –  19 Apportioned 79 across top of plate
1980 –   green on reflective white   –  19 Apportioned 80 across top of plate
Common carrier trucks (and buses)

Common carrier plates are reported to have been issued to both trucks and buses.  I presume these were used on vehicles carrying cargo or passengers for compensation over fixed routes.  Like regular truck plates, there was no identifying legend; between 1973 and 1980, prefix letters Wx were the sole means to identify this plate type.  I don't have details about the format and placement of the year on 1978-1980 plates. 

Contract carrier trucks

I presume these were also used on trucks carrying cargo for compensation, but on variable routes.  Like regular truck plates, there was no identifying legend; between 1973 and 1980, prefix letters Xx (probably always "XA") were the sole means to identify this plate type.  I don't have details about the format and placement of the year on 1978-1980 plates.  Apparently charter buses were not issued contract carrier plates, as they had their own plate type. 

Exempt trucks

I don't know much about these.  Apparently they were issued for for-hire trucks that were exempt from regulation as motor carriers, becuase they hauled agricultural products and/or were under contract to the federal government.  I've seen one report that these were used between 1977 and 1984, but then I've subsequently discovered they were also used in 1976.  I suspect that they were also around before then, too.   Serial format was EX-0000.  The 1976 and 1977 plate formats were like other truck types, and the 1978 format was the same as was used for regular light trucks.  I have no information on 1979 or 1980 plate formats. 

1978 –   green on reflective white   –  1978 at top center
1979 –  (unknown)
1980 –  (unknown)
1979 farm truck
Farm trucks

Farm trucks serials switched to using prefix Fx in 1973.  Farm truck plates again bore the legend Farm Truck - N C in place of North Carolina used on regular trucks.  On 1978 plates, the location of the embossed year differed from either type of regular truck plate.  These plates continued to be issued annually. 

1978 –   green on reflective white   –  1978 at bottom center
1979 –   red on reflective white   –  1979 at top center
1980 –   green on reflective white   –  1980 at bottom center

North Carolina truck plates, 1981-1994

For 1981, North Carolina began more clearly identifying many plate types with an embossed legend.  Most non-passenger types continue to be renewed annually.  Annual plate colors continued to alternate between red on white in odd years, and green on white in even years.  Annual plates had the issue year embossed on the plate, and actually expired on February 15 of the following year.  For plate types using stickers that always or nearly always indicated December expirations, those with December expirations were also considered to be annual registrations, and also actually expired on the following February 15, taking into consideration the 46 day grace period offered on annual registrations. 

1983 light truck
1983 regular light truck
Regular light trucks, 1981-1983

Light trucks continued to use the green-on-white dated 1978 base plate, renewed with stickers.  Upon the end of the 1980 registration year on February 15, 1981, light trucks were converted to staggered registration along with passenger cars.  Initial staggered registration periods expired between June or August 1981 and July 1982.  There were no natural 1981 regular light truck stickers; only renewals of plates issued prior to staggering. 

1983 was the last expiration year for distinct regular light truck plates; after that, regular light trucks were issued First in Flight passenger car plates, both for new registrations and renewals upon expiration of the 1983 sticker. 

1981 medium or heavy truck
1981 regular medium or
heavy truck
Regular medium and heavy trucks

Medium and heavy trucks continued to be issued new plates annually.  In 1981, the location of the state name was made consistent at the bottom of the plate, and the legend Commercial was added to the top of the plate.  These plates were used regardless of whether a given truck was actually used for commercial or non-commercial purposes.  The year of issue was embossed in the upper corners, with the century on the left and the last two digits of the year on the right.  Serials continued to be in formats Ax-0000 and Bx-0000.  Colors continued to alternate between red on white and green on white each year. 

Apportioned trucks (and buses)

Apportioned plates used by commercial trucks and fixed-route buses that crossed state lines continued using serial format Lx-0000, and continued to be issued annually.  However, beginning in 1981, the legend Commerical was added to the top edge of the plate.  This necessitated moving the Apportioned legend to the bottom, and sticking the state abbreviation N.C. in the upper left corner where the century used to be.  The two-digit year remained in the upper right corner.  Colors continued to alternate between red on white and green on white each year.  Apportioned trailers were issued different type plates than trucks and buses. 

Common carrier trucks (and buses), 1981-1983

Common carrier plates are reported to have been issued to both trucks and buses.  I presume these were used on vehicles carrying cargo or passengers for compensation over fixed routes.  Between 1981 and 1983, these looked just like regular medium and heavy truck plates, including the Commercial legend.  The prefix letters Wx identify this specific plate type.  Common carrier plates were last issued in 1983. 

Contract carrier trucks, 1981-1983

I presume these were also used on trucks carrying cargo for compensation, but on variable routes.  Apparently charter buses were not issued contract carrier plates, as they had their own plate type.  Between 1981 and 1983, contract carrier plates looked just like regular medium and heavy truck plates, including the Commercial legend.  The prefix letters Xx (probably always "XA") identify this specific plate type.  Contract carrier plates were last issued in 1983. 

Exempt trucks, 1981-1983

I don't know much about these.  Apparently they were registered to for-hire trucks that were exempt from regulation as motor carriers, becuase they hauled agricultural products and/or were under contract to the federal government.  They've been reported to have been used between 1977 and 1984, but I've seen a 1976 exempt plate, and I wouldn't be surprised if 1983 was actually the last year issued.  Probably this plate type became redundant as the trucking industry was being deregulated around this time.  Other than the EX prefix, the plate formats were just like regular medium and heavy truck plates, with the legend Commercial flanked by the century and year across the top edge, and North Carolina across the bottom edge. 

older farm truck
1994 farm truck plate
(with more recent stickers
also displayed)
Farm trucks

Beginning in 1981, farm trucks went to a multi-year base plate validated with a sticker indicating the expiration date.  These base plates were red on white, bore the legend Commericial at the top, Farm in the lower left corner, and NC in the lower right corner.  The sticker was about six inches long and was placed at the bottom edge between the "Farm" and the "NC".  The sticker bore the word Truck, implying that these base plates could also be issued to other farm vehicles besides trucks, and would receive different stickers.  Whether that actually ever happened or not, I don't know. 

Farm truck stickers also had the expiration year printed on them, and the expiration month was indicated by punching a hole in one of the twelve months listed along the top edge of the sticker.  I presume that the introduction of these rather strange plates and stickers coincided with the introduction of optional three-month farm truck registration periods.  Annual registrations continued to be available, and they were always indicated by a December expiration month. 

These farm truck base plates are reported to have been first issued in serial format Fx-0000, then later Sx-0000 and Wx-0000.  Pictured at left is one such plate still in current use; the 1994 sticker is still showing at the bottom of the plate.  It would seem that standard month and year stickers have been used on these plates since 1995. 

For hire trucks (and buses and limousines), 1984-1994

This plate type was introduced in 1984.  Apparently several other plate types, including common carrier, contract carrier, charter bus, and exempt truck, were merged into this new "commercial for hire" type.  At the top of the plate reads N.C. Commercial yy, where "yy" is the two-digit year, and at the bottom center the plate reads For Hire.  Serial format is Zx-0000 but the lowest letter combination used was ZB.  The color of embossed areas alternates between red and green. 

This plate type is issued to vehicles which carry property or passengers for compensation, excluding taxis which have a distinct plate type.  So, trucks such as package delivery trucks, household moving trucks, and tow trucks all typically bore these plates, but also charter buses and limousines for hire.  During these years I've seen serial prefixes range between ZB and ZE. 

North Carolina truck plates, 1995-2005

Sometime in the 1990s, I'll say approximately 1995, the state began issuing undated blue on white base plates to all heavy trucks over 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, rather than the previous annual plates.  These heavy truck plate types all bore the legend Permanent, and although they did not display year stickers through 2005, for some strange reason nearly always had December month stickers affixed in the upper left corner. 

Annual plate colors continued to alternate between red on white in odd years, and green on white in even years.  Annual plates had the issue year embossed on the plate, and actually expired on February 15 of the following year.  Stickered plates indicating December expirations were also considered to be annual registrations, and also actually expired on the following February 15, taking into consideration the 46 day grace period offered on annual registrations. 

2002 medium truck
2002 regular medium truck

2005 medium truck
2005 regular medium truck
Regular medium truck standard plates

Medium duty truck plates continued largely unchanged from those used in 1981 through 1994.  Beginning in 1995, serial ranges alternated between Ax-0000 and Bx-0000 in odd (red) years, and Cx-0000 and Dx-0000 in even (green) years. 

Starting in 2004, the plate type legend was changed from Commercial to Weighted.  Presumably this was done in response to the increasing numbers of personal medium duty trucks that were not used for commercial purposes.  I don't know exactly what "weighted" means; I would guess that it somehow refers to this plate type's variable registration fees, which are based on each vehicle's gross vehicle weight. 

2005 medium truck vanity plate
2005 medium truck vanity
(plate issued 2003 or prior)
Regular medium truck vanity plates

I don't know when these were first issued, but medium duty trucks with vanity registrations were issued a blue-on-white base plate to which expiration stickers were applied.  Through 2005 these plates always indicated a December expiration, to make them consistent with regular annual medium truck plates.  The legend Commerical was stamped along the top edge of plates issued through 2003; beginning in 2004, newly issued plates bore the legend Weighted.  Plates with either legend continue to be renewed today. 

Regular heavy trucks

Beginning in about 1995, heavy trucks over 26,000 pounds G.V.W. were split out from medium trucks into separate plate types.  Regular heavy trucks were issued undated blue on white base plates with the legends N.C. Permanent and Commercial at the top and bottom of the plate, respectively.  Serial format was YA-00000.  Heavy truck plates were issued with a December month sticker but no year sticker; these plates were valid through 2005 without any year sticker. 

2003 apportioned lignt or medium truck
2003 apportioned light or
medium truck; also bus
(O'Connor photo / plate)
Apportioned light and medium trucks (and buses)

Annual apportioned plates continued unchanged from those issued in 1981-2004, alternating between red and green paint on embossed areas each year.  However, beginning in 1995 or so, annual apportioned plates were issued only to trucks under 26,000 pounds G.V.W. as well as to fixed-route interstate buses.  Heavy apportioned trucks were issued multi-year base plates.  The serial format Lx-0000 was now shared between the two types of apportioned truck plates.  Heavy apportioned truck base plates started with the LA prefix with the second letter advancing through the alphabet; as a result, each year the light and medium apportioned truck plates were assigned successively higher second letters that had not yet been issued on the heavy truck base. 

1990s-2005 apportioned heavy truck
1995-2005 apportioned
heavy truck
Apportioned heavy trucks

Approximately 1995, apportioned trucks over 26,000 pounds G.V.W. got their own distinct plate type.  These plates were blue on white, undated, and had the legends N.C. Permanent at the top and Apportioned at the bottom.  The serial format for apportioned trucks was always Lx-0000 during these years.  These plates always had a December month sticker in the upper left corner, but no year sticker, through 2005.  Apportioned heavy trailers were issued plates with the same colors and legends but a differnet serial format. 

2004 farm truck
Farm trucks

Apparently, farm trucks began getting normal month and year stickers beginning in 1995.  Annual registrations always indicated a December expiration, and three month registration periods were also available; these could expire in any month, except possibly December. 

Also apparently, the 1981-1994 farm truck base plates continued to be renewed, but at some point in 1995 or afterwards, somewhere in the Wx series, a new base plate with the legends Commercial at the top, and Farm Truck – NC at the bottom, began to be issued.  Farm truck plate colors continued to be red on white.  All farm trucks get these plates, regardless of weight. 

The Wx-0000 serial format was eventually exhausted, and serial numbers continued into the Xx-0000 format. 

2004 for hire
2004 commercial vehicle for
hire other than a heavy truck
For hire light and medium trucks (and buses and limousines)

This plate type continued unchanged from earlier years, although heavy trucks began to be issued different plates in about 1995.  This plate type is issued to vehicles which carry property or passengers for compensation, excluding taxis which have a distinct plate type.  So, trucks such as package delivery trucks, household moving trucks, and tow trucks all typically bore these plates, but also charter buses and limousines for hire. 

By 2000, and quite possibly earlier, only prefixes ZB and ZC were used in even (green plate) years, and only prefixes ZF and ZH were used in odd (red plate) years.  ZA was skipped because it's used on the Drive Away plate type.  Why ZD and ZE were skipped, I have no idea.  ZG was skipped because G is a letter that North Carolina normally avoids using on standard-issue plates, although I don't know why this is the case; G seems like a perfectly good letter to me. 

1990s-2005 heavy truck for hire
1995-2005 heavy truck
for hire
For hire heavy trucks

Sometime in the 1990s heavy trucks for hire were split out from the Commercial For Hire plate type.  Typically, trucks with these plates are heavy dump trucks, cement mixer trucks, or truck tractors.  Heavy trucks were issued undated blue on white plates with the legend N.C. Permanent at top and For Hire at bottom.  Serial format was always ZB-00000.  Through 2005 these plates were issued and were valid with a December month sticker in the top left corner and no year sticker.  I have no explanation for the plate shown at left with a July month sticker, which I photographed in actual use in 2005. 

North Carolina truck plates, 2006-present

At the beginning of the 2006 registration period, most non-passenger annual plate registrations were converted to staggered registrations.  Initial staggered expiration dates ranged from July 2006 to June 2007.  Plate types which had previously received alternating red-on-white and green-on-white plates each year were now issued undated blue-on-white base plates, to which month and year expiration stickers were applied.  Plate types which had been issued expiration stickers but which always indicated a December expiration, such as farm trucks and medium truck vanity plates, retained their plates but were assigned new expiration months. 

Existing blue-on-white so-called "permanent" heavy truck and trailer plates were similarly affected.  While the plates themselves were not replaced, expiration year stickers were applied for the first time, and their December month stickers were overlaid with various staggered expiration month stickers. 

2006 medium truck
2006 regular medium truck
Regular medium trucks

These have the word Weighted embossed at the top edge.  They're issued for not-for-hire trucks between 7,000 and 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, but are also sometimes seen on lighter not-for-hire commercial trucks.  Serial format is xx-0000; serials have been issued in the A, B, C, D, and E series so far.  Each two-letter series starts at number 1001. 

2007 medium truck vanity plate
2007 medium truck embossed
vanity

2013 medium truck vanity plate
2013 medium truck flat vanity
(Weeks photo of plate in use)
Regular medium truck vanity plates

Medium trucks with vanity registrations were already using blue-on-white base plates with expiration stickers applied, so these were not replated in 2006.  Expiration months did convert from always being December to now being staggered.  Older plates with the legend Commerical at the top of the plate continue to be renewed and used; newly issued plates instead have the legend Weighted.  Vanity plates manufactured between mid-year 2008 and mid-year 2011 were made flat. 

2007 heavy truck (format 1)
2007 heavy truck (format 1)

2008 heavy truck (format 2a)
2008 heavy truck (format 2a)

2012 heavy truck (format 2b)
2012 heavy truck (format 2b)
Regular heavy trucks

Heavy trucks are those over 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.  The N.C. Permanant Commercial plates from 2005 and prior were not replaced, and new registrants were issued the same type plates as before, with serial format YA-00000, at least until YA-99999 was reached in late 2006 or so.  Then, rather than continue with the expected YB-series plates, an odd eight-character format YA000000 was introduced, with very unusual (for North Carolina) lead zeroes in the serial.  The legends at the top and bottom continued unchanged. 

In the spring of 2010, after these plates had reached the YA020000 series or so, the state apparently decided that lead zeroes weren't such a great idea after all, and they suddenly began issuing new plates in the YA100000 series. 

2007 apportioned light or medium truck
2007 apportioned light or
medium truck; also bus
Apportioned light and medium trucks (and buses)

Apportioned vehicles under 26,000 pounds G.V.W. were previously issued annual plates, and so were given new blue-on-white base plates at the start of 2006.  This is a rarely-seen plate type, at least in the Raleigh area where I live.  The serial format on this base is Lx-00000, so as not to conflict with apportioned heavy truck plate serials, which were approaching the end of the Lx-0000 format at the time.  Apportioned buses are also issued this same plate type. 

2010 apportioned heavy truck
2009 apportioned heavy truck
Apportioned heavy trucks

Apportioned trucks over 26,000 pounds G.V.W. retained their pre-2006 blue-on-white N.C. Permanent Apportioned plates, with serial format Lx-0000.  These plates continue to be issued and now always have staggered expiraiton month and year stickers.  In 2009, this series reached plate number LZ-9999, and a new series with format Mx-0000 was begun. 

2008 farm truck
Farm trucks

Prior to 2006, farm trucks already used a base plate to which expiration month and year stickers were applied, so these were not replaced, even though they're colored red on white.  Registration is now staggered, however.  Recently-issued farm truck plates are in the Xx letter series; but earlier-issued ones still on the road are in the Wx series.  Farm truck plates are issued to all sizes of farm-use trucks, from compact pickups to big rigs. 

2007 commercial vehicle for hire
2007 commercial vehicle for
hire other than a heavy truck
For hire light and medium trucks (and buses and limousines)

These plates are issued to a wide variety of commercial vehicles that charge to carry cargo or people.  They can be found on package delivery trucks, local household moving trucks, tow trucks, etc., but also on limousines and charter buses.  They're not issued to taxis, because taxis have their own plate type.  Trucks issued these plates would fall into the light- or medium- categories under 26,000 pounds G.V.W.  Serial format is Zx-0000, but started at ZB-1001; the ZA prefix is reserved for the seldom-seen "Drive Away" plate type, of which I know very little.  As of July 2010, For Hire plates were being issued in the early ZE series. 

2007 heavy truck for hire
2007 heavy truck for hire
For Hire heavy trucks

Heavy trucks over 26,000 G.V.W. that charge to carry cargo, but which don't travel out of state, continue with these N.C. Permanent For Hire plates that were used prior to 2006 with a December month sticker and no year sticker.  Now, of course, the expiration month varies and year stickers are used.  Typically, dump trucks, cement mixer trucks, and truck tractors used locally run this plate type.  New registrants get the same plate design.  Serial format is always ZB-00000

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Page credits

Thanks to those who have directly contributed to the information on this page:  Mike Fox, Dave Baldwin, Pete Madsen, and John Weeks. 

O'Connor photographs © copyright by Tim O'Connor.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission. 
Fox, Baldwin, Madsen, and Weeks photos are presumed to be copyrighted by Mike Fox, Dave Baldwin, Pete Madsen, and John Weeks, respectively, and are used with permission. 


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