Let us bring you through the different types of number
plates in Singapore and help decipher their purpose, and more importantly, what they stand for.
Prefix and Suffix
License plates for private cars started with a single prefix ‘S’. But it wasn’t long before the growing car population imposed a need to increase a suffix letter after the ‘S’ – from ‘SA’ to ‘SY’ – with the exception of SH, which is reserved for taxis.
After the single suffix was exhausted, private car plates began to start with a single ‘E’, running up to ‘EZ’ before the ‘S’ series took over again – this time round with two serial suffix letters, starting from ‘SBA’.
This system runs to this date, with the exception of the following:
SBS: Buses operated by SBS Transit
SEP: Short for Singapore Elected President, it is the official state car for the nation
SMB: Buses operated by SMRT buses. Before the merger of SMRT and Trans Island Bus Service, the latter carried the prefix ‘TIB’
SJ: Cars for Judges from the Supreme Court. SJ1 is used by the Chief of Justice
SPF: Car for the Commissioner of the Singapore Police Force.
To avoid forming words that may lead to objectionable opinions, the Land Transport Authority decided to skip the use of vowels in the second letter of the three-letter suffix. For example, when the ‘SDZ’ sequence ran out in 2003, the ‘SE’ series was skipped and ‘SFA’ was used.
In addition, there is a range of special prefixes and suffixes for vehicles used for specific functions.
LTA: Bikes operated by the Enforcement Department of the Land Transport Authority
MID: Vehicles operated by the Singapore Armed Forces. Up to five digits are used before this suffix
MP: Vehicles operated by the Military Police Command from the Singapore Armed Forces
PA, PB, PC, PH, PZ: These were used to separate private buses, private hire vehicles and so on, but later on all private hire vehicles were issued with PA plates
PU: Vehicles that are tax exempted and used exclusively on the island of Pulau Ubin
QX: Vehicles operated by emergency and law enforcement agencies, such as the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force
RD: For cars used in Research and Development projects, such as fuel cell and electric cars
RU: For Restricted Use vehicles that are exempted from road tax. These vehicles are only allowed within certain areas, such as motorised trams that are used to ferry visitors at the zoo
S, ending with CD: Vehicles used by foreign diplomats
TP: Bikes operated by the Traffic Police Department of the Singapore Police Force
23 Apr 2015 | Text by Nicholas Low, Photos by Low Fai Ming