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UK Metal (Pressed) Number Plates Revisited
Churchmouse
post Wed, 7 May 2014 - 16:30
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I've recently looked into this issue as I needed to buy a new set of plates and discovered that the new metal ones are considerably nicer than the old plastic ones--and don't cost much more, either. There's a lot of knee-jerk reactions on this topic, as a Google search will reveal various threads on Pistonheads, Policespecials, Detailingworld, Mbclub, etc., much of which is stubbornly misinformed or out of date (but fun to read nonetheless--especially the former). There have been plenty of unjustifiable PCNs issued over the last several years for legally compliant number plates, so there's certainly still a bit of a risk of being pulled up for this, even though the law is now fairly clear. (The relevant British Standard is due to be updated soon, and it will likely make it absolutely clear that metal number plates are capable of being legal, but the new standard has not yet been released, and I believe it would still have to be adopted into law before becoming legally relevant.)

The last relevant thread I've found was resolved in 2012, so I thought it would be better to start a new one here.

I ordered a set of metal plates from a local seller (registered here), via Ebay, based on price and previous customer satisfaction ratings. They arrived promptly, and I now have a shiny (or should I say "retroflecting"?) set of "100% UK Legal" pressed aluminium number plates conforming to BA AU 145d. (I also sent the relevant supporting documents.)

But, are they legal?

The relevant UK legislation is found in The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 r.10:

Specifications for registration plates
10.—(1) A registration mark must be displayed on a registration plate conforming to the requirements prescribed by this regulation.

(2) In the case of a vehicle first registered on or after 1st September 2001 the registration plate must conform to the requirements set out in Part 1 of Schedule 2.

[NOTE: Only the parts relevant to newer vehicles are included here]

SCHEDULE 2 Regulation 10
REQUIREMENTS FOR REGISTRATION PLATES
PART 1
VEHICLES REGISTERED AND NEW REGISTRATION PLATES FITTED ON OR AFTER 1ST SEPTEMBER 2001 (MANDATORY SPECIFICATION)


1. The plate must be made of retroreflecting material which, as regards its construction, colour and other qualities, complies with the requirements of—

(a) the British Standard specification for retroreflecting number plates published on 15 January 1998 under number BS AU 145d(a), or

(b) any other relevant standard or specification recognised for use in an EEA State and which, when in use, offers a performance equivalent to that offered by a plate complying with the British Standard specification,

and which, in either case, is marked with the number (or such other information as is necessary to permit identification) of that standard or specification.

2. Where the registration mark is displayed on the front of the vehicle, it must have black characters on a white background.

3. Where the registration mark is displayed on the back of the vehicle, it must have black characters on a yellow background.



Schedule 2 refers to BS AU 145d, which is a proprietary standard (which means you have to pay the BSI £104 + VAT for the privilege of finding out which laws you might have broken--whose bloody idea of basic justice was that?), but appears to be available elsewhere under the cryptic name "bs_au_145d.pdf". LMGTFY?

1 Scope
This British Standard specifies requirements for retroreflecting number plates for vehicles. The standard includes requirements for colorimetric and photometric properties and tests for weather resistance, resistance to impact, bending, vibration, corrosion, solvents, water and extremes of temperature.
NOTE. Retroreflecting number plates may be manufactured from any material which performs satisfactorily in service, providing the requirements of this standard are met.



Finally, the British Number Plate Manufacturers Association has put the following "FAQ" on their website:

Can I use a metal number plate?

BNMA is a member of the BSI panel which is revising the number plate standard BS AU 145d:1998 “Specification for retroreflecting number plates”. This task group also includes representatives from DfT, ACPO, Home Office and the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology.

The objective is to update this 1998 standard in the light of modern requirements and to update testing where appropriate in order to maintain performance standards.

This draft standard (BS AU 145e) will be available for consultation shortly. BNMA customers will see little change as most work has been around the perfomance of the reflective materials themselves. There is likely to be a requirement, however, that plate fixings should not intrude into the area of the plate containing the registration characters and that the characters should be uniform black in nature. This is intended to reinforce the existing requirement for fixings not to interfere with readings - see 11.3 of The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001. No reference will be made to character spacing and design, incidentally, as this is also fully covered in the 2001 Regulations.

The current standard is a performance standard and the panel is keen that it remains non-prescriptive ie the standard does not require the plates to be made of any particular materials as long as they meet the performance requirements - this is designed to encourage innovation by industry. This means for example that in effect that either plastic or metal plates can be used, and this principle will be carried forward into the new standard.


I have also seen reference to an alleged DVLA Bulletin on this topic in the previous thread, but have been unable to locate the actual document online, so I have requested it from DVLA (and am commencing to hold my breath), but it allegedly says this:

DVLA Bulletin 21/11 (21/2011)

Misrepresented Number Plates
Please be aware that the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency ( DVLA ) has been dealing with an increased number of enquiries dealing with raised lettering or metal number plates. DVLA,s position is that there is nothing in the British Standard ( BS AU 145d) or in the Road Vehicles ( Display of Registration Marks ) Regulations 2001 that specifically excludes raised lettering or metal plates.


In summary, everything authoritative I have been able to find online suggests that metal number plates meeting the relevant specification are (a) widely available now and (b) UK legal. smile.gif

--Churchmouse
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post Wed, 7 May 2014 - 16:30
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jambmw
post Wed, 7 May 2014 - 16:52
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Well they have to meet the BS standard, if they don't regardless of what the supplier says, they are not legal.

Main thing for pressed plates is whether they are retroflective as metal in itself is not. Take a photo with flash at night - does it reflect. If it does, it probably is retroflective.

Alot of suppliers say "it's legal it has the BS mark". Great, doesn't mean much if it isn't retroflective.

Nothing in legislation tells you what material the plate must be made of.
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enfield freddy
post Wed, 7 May 2014 - 17:14
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back in the 70s and 80s I worked in the motor trade making number plates up , in those days they were plastic (raised) numbers/letters fastened to a drilled plate with clips , we did the earlier white letters on black and silver letters on black PLUS the newer white and yellow plates with raised black lettering , for the commercial vehicle/fleet people we used to order in pressed plates,

although now probably superseded , all plates used to carry a BSI (?) number.

we were very glad when the "modern" plastic plates took over , sticking letters on plastic and putting thru a mangle was a lot easier than drilling (on average) 3 holes for each letter/number , and using the back of your hand to tap the circular clips on , I used to book a weeks holiday the week before new registrations!
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Rallyman72
post Wed, 7 May 2014 - 17:16
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Both my son and I are using pressed metal (aluminium) plates with silver digits on black quite legally on cars without any issues at all. I had just such a set, which were BSI marked, supplied by Halfords a little while ago ...

In certain circumstances the plates do not need to be retroreflective although an awful lot of police officers are ignorant of the legislation (except, perhaps, traffic officers).

Interestingly the legislation also stipulates where the plate should be placed and a plate on the front of the bonnet as used to be seen on many a rally car in the past is no longer legal.


--------------------
The accident was caused by cockpit thrombosis - a dangerous clot between seatback and steering wheel ...

1. Read this first
2. Nip Wizard
Parking tickets - council - 0, Rallyman - 1
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sgtdixie
post Wed, 7 May 2014 - 18:45
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QUOTE (Rallyman72 @ Wed, 7 May 2014 - 18:16) *
Both my son and I are using pressed metal (aluminium) plates with silver digits on black quite legally on cars without any issues at all. I had just such a set, which were BSI marked, supplied by Halfords a little while ago ...

How old is the vehicle?
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enfield freddy
post Wed, 7 May 2014 - 19:00
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as he said " quite legally " , presume this is on pre 71 vehicles (or close to that date)
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Churchmouse
post Thu, 8 May 2014 - 19:13
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I don't think there has ever been an issue with black/silver number plates on old vehicles. This thread is about current-style number plates made from a retroreflecting material that happens not to be plastic. That seems to have been somewhat controversial over the last several years.

--Churchmouse
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enfield freddy
post Thu, 8 May 2014 - 19:29
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after reading this posting last night , I started looking , as stated by me previously , black letter (raised) and drilled onto a reflective plate was the norm in the 70s , and pressed (more heavy duty) for HGVs

coffee stop this morning so lots of waggon trailers using the h/duty pressed plates on the rear , those come off and re transferred between wagon units
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Churchmouse
post Mon, 12 May 2014 - 19:39
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To follow up:

I enquired with the DVLA regarding the "DVLA Bulletin 21/11 (21/2-11)" I had seen quoted on the internet previously, and was told that they could not locate any such information, but they did confirm the gist of it: "We are not aware of any specific bulletin regarding this information. But to clarify, there is nothing in law preventing the use of metal plates providing they comply with the relevant regulations and British Standard."

--Churchmouse
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jambmw
post Tue, 13 May 2014 - 19:19
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QUOTE (Rallyman72 @ Wed, 7 May 2014 - 18:16) *
Interestingly the legislation also stipulates where the plate should be placed and a plate on the front of the bonnet as used to be seen on many a rally car in the past is no longer legal.


Rallyman, can I ask do you know which part of legislation states this? I've researched this in great depth and can only find refererence to it needing to the as far as practicable be in a vertical position, and should be in the manufactured ideally, but vertical if not.
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Rallyman72
post Wed, 14 May 2014 - 07:46
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Just popped back into this one - both cars are pre 1/1/73 so quite legal Sarge (one is a 1966 registration, the other is mid 1972).

A while back a friend saw a Mk4 Golf with silver on black and remarked to the PC stood next to her that the plates were illegal, said PC remarked "Are they, I didn't know that".

The display requirements are such that the plate must be able to be read clearly from between 18 and 22 metres in front of the vehicle depending on the font characteristics (primarily size). As such a bonnet mounted plate even if it is on an acceptable reflective background will, in many circumstances, fail this test and therefore be illegal. See The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 Part II Regulation 6. The works Subaru Impreza were all illegal in this respect as the plate was undersize - the fact it was hinged and not visible at speed is another matter.


--------------------
The accident was caused by cockpit thrombosis - a dangerous clot between seatback and steering wheel ...

1. Read this first
2. Nip Wizard
Parking tickets - council - 0, Rallyman - 1
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IDGM
post Tue, 4 Nov 2014 - 10:15
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I hope nobody minds me resurrecting this thread.

I have just bought a set of pressed plates for my car. Basically, I was fed up with the acrylic laminated ones going all cacky where they are drilled and water getting in, them cracking when a stone hits them etc etc.

The retailer advertised them as meeting the relevant BSAU145D and the coating to the face of the plate is bonded to the aluminium DIN stamped backing. They are laser etched with the BS number and the retailers name and postcode, who also claims to be the manufacturer. THey have the correct Charles Wright font and are correctly spaced, no logos.

From a lot of post-purchase reading, the main bone of contention is that the material the plates are made from is not retro-reflective. This is where I'm a little bit stumped. All of the acrylic plates I have bought from motor factors are constructed from clear acrylic bonded to a very thin reflective material with a backing. The letters might be printed onto the acrylic or be loose laid before the reflective background is applied. The main support component of the plate is the clear acrylic, which is not a retro-reflective material.

Compare this with the pressed plate that is a retro-reflective 3M film that is bonded to the front of the aluminium support material. I note from the .gov.uk website that 3D characters are allowed, and pressed plates are indeed three dimensional.

There is nothing in the BS notes that specifies the material other than it has to be retro-reflective. The now traditional acrylic plates are of a sandwich construction and the pressed plates are too, with the retro reflective material being the surface. I also see that they are easily identifiable in a photo.

Even after all this information, claim and counter claim on various sites, I genuinely can't see the problem with them.
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uk_mike
post Thu, 6 Nov 2014 - 19:58
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The plates do not have to be made of a retro reflective material, they simply have to be retro reflective in nature.

It does not matter how the retro reflectivity is achieved as long as it meets the relevant standard.
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Bustedspeeder
post Sat, 30 May 2015 - 05:12
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Can you pls. share the UK seller? for metal pressed plates which are DVLA approved?

Thanks
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Richard Lionhear...
post Sat, 30 May 2015 - 16:58
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QUOTE (enfield freddy @ Wed, 7 May 2014 - 18:14) *
back in the 70s and 80s I worked in the motor trade making number plates up , in those days they were plastic (raised) numbers/letters fastened to a drilled plate with clips , we did the earlier white letters on black and silver letters on black PLUS the newer white and yellow plates with raised black lettering , for the commercial vehicle/fleet people we used to order in pressed plates,

although now probably superseded , all plates used to carry a BSI (?) number.

we were very glad when the "modern" plastic plates took over , sticking letters on plastic and putting thru a mangle was a lot easier than drilling (on average) 3 holes for each letter/number , and using the back of your hand to tap the circular clips on , I used to book a weeks holiday the week before new registrations!



Ahhhh yes, my mate worked in a plate shop in the late 60's and 70's. The had a drilling jig you made up the plate to drill the holes, drilled it, took it out the jig, push the letters in turned it over and fixed the plastic studs poking thru with clips. The other way they did it was some sort of stick on lettering, which was then sprayed with a lacquer, and the whole thing baked in an oven for 15 minutes. This process was very useful. We were in a folk band, and i had a mandolin, which has been sanded down. We sprayed it with lacquer and three or four times then baked it in the oven. The whole thing came out much darker and browner, but the sound was fantastic, the lacquer coating was hard as glass and resonated superbly.
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freddy1
post Sat, 30 May 2015 - 17:24
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yes , pendlebury plates , sold out to one of the larger radiator makers (marsden) ,then reopened as pendlebury , and preston brakes , the clips that held the numbers/letters on were a circular spire type thing that you had to whack on with a tool like a screwdriver with a small socket on the end , , used to hurt your hand , average would be about (6x3) 24 clips per plate , one on they could not be removed without breaking the (about) 4mm plastic pins that held the didgets

new car reg time (august) was the time to take your holidays !

when the new "reflective plates came in , (1973 ish ) every bugger wanted them!

fortunately the wagon and fleet users wanted pressed plates , they came from "bestplate" in if I remember correctly , blackpool on a one day turn round

the jig you refer to was a frame that held 6 or 7 flat steel plates about 1/8 thick and about 3x2 those plates has holes drilled in the to match the plastic pinds on the numbers/letters , eg: B C D (and a lot more) had two holes , E F etc used 3 holes

62 now , and that was when I was about 17-18 , getting old now ,,,,,,

This post has been edited by freddy1: Sat, 30 May 2015 - 17:25
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madbasshunter
post Sat, 30 May 2015 - 19:49
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Whilst helping a lad fight a ticket for his legal metal plates I found the same information

“DVLA Bulletin 21/11 (21/2011)

Misrepresented Number Plates
Please be aware that the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency ( DVLA ) has been dealing with an increased number of enquiries dealing with raised lettering or metal number plates. DVLA,s position is that there is nothing in the British Standard ( BS AU 145d) or in the Road Vehicles ( Display of Registration Marks ) Regulations 2001 that specifically excludes raised lettering or metal plates.

Although pressed metal plates are not excluded, the plate must not be treated in any way which impairs its recognition by a camera and film or any device. The Font must not be altered from the specified Charles Wright Font.”

and got this reply from Bill Shouler BNMA

Good afternoon, the performance parameters for plates are laid down in the appropriate British Standard BS AU 145d and it does not specify either metal or plastic as long as all the BS requirements are met. As a result raised characters are allowed as long as the correct font and spacing is used and this is also set out in regulations.

The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 gives these requirements, and I have given the link below.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/561/contents/made


I hope that this helps clarify the position for you.


Regards

Bill Shouler
THE BRITISH NUMBER PLATE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION

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Churchmouse
post Tue, 2 Jun 2015 - 09:40
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QUOTE (Bustedspeeder @ Sat, 30 May 2015 - 06:12) *
Can you pls. share the UK seller? for metal pressed plates which are DVLA approved?

Thanks

The seller I used doesn't appear to be trading any longer in the same form.

However, I should point out that the plates are not "DVLA approved", as no number plates are specifically "approved" by the DVLA. Number plates either meet the relevant standard or they do not. A clue to a seller being a responsible one is: do they REQUIRE your identification and VRM entitlement before issuing the plates? I have retained evidence that I provided all such information to the seller, and the number plates provided do contain all of the information required by the relevant standard.

--Churchmouse
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freddy1
post Tue, 2 Jun 2015 - 09:46
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when reflective plates were first introduced , there was no requirement for the manufacturers name and address on them , I know this was introduced much later , and aimed at plastic plates , there is no economic way of having those details on a pressed plate.

so how can those plates be legal?
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Fredd
post Tue, 2 Jun 2015 - 10:47
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A quick Google search will find several suppliers able to achieve the tricky task of printing their name and the BS number onto a painted and pressed metal plate. I have no idea why you think it would be any more difficult than printing onto acrylic stock.


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Fredd

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