British Columbia Commercial Truck License Plates

A special thanks to Neale Hankins, Bill Hobbis, Tom Lindner, Dallas Doyle and Ron Garay for providing many of the plates pictured.

The second license plate prefix to be issued in British Columbia was the short-lived "T" for Trucks, which was used only for the 1924 registration year (the first prefix being the "D" for Dealer plates in 1911).  It is not clear what fate befell these early "T" plates, but they form an interesting precursor to the eventual classification of Commercial Trucks in subsequent decades.
1924: "T" Prefix
Issuing Statistics
T1 to T8500

The Truck pictured above is displaying Registration No. T2211
Image Credit: Saanich Archives
Caption: "Saanich Poundkeeper and Ford truck in front of Glanford Avenue pound 1924"
Archives Number: 1980-005-032
Thanks to Pierre Delacote, we are able to provide an example of the registration form issued to a Truck sporting a "T" plate. Simply click on the image below to read more:

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In 1936, the province would again create a separate registration for Commercial Trucks through the introduction of the "C" prefix, which would appear continuously through to 1971.

Of interest, although the province had used issued six-digit passenger plates between 1930 and 1935 as way to extend that series beyond the 99,999 mark, the decision was made to retain the five-digit format for the Commercial series and use additional letters to extend the "C" prefix beyond the 9,999 mark.  As a result, in the very first year of issue approximately thirteen (13) different letter combinations appear on the "C" plates - a number which would only increase as the number of trucks continued to grow throughout the coming decade.

1936 - 1948: Multiple Letter Prefixes
Issuing Statistics
C1 to CP-800
C1 to CS-255
C1 to CY-878
C1 to CX-999
C1 to C900A
C1 to C999A
C1 to C515B
C1 to C685E
C1 to C999N
C1 to C185Z
C1 to C1Y99
To see how the various prefixes were issued in each year, simply click on the plates shown above to access the Gallery.

National Parks and Red Border License Plates
For years it has been known that there exist Alberta licence plates from the 1930s which had been painted with red borders and that this was done in order to identify local residents and workers who resided around the various National Parks of western Albert - such as Banff, Yoho or Kootenay - so that they could freely enter and leave the Parks. As can be seen, an interesting facet of the Alberta plates is that they all start at the 30,000 mark.
These plates are common on the passenger base plate for throughout the 1930s, however, there are also known examples for the Commercial base, such as the 1936 shown below. To read more about these plates, visit our page on the 1924-35 Passenger base.
Neale Hankins Collection

The plate shown at left is thought to be a manufacturers sample due to the use of the three zeros and the fact that it as never painted.

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In an attempt to simplify the registration system, the province did away with the use of excessive letter prefixes on both the passenger commercial plate series in 1949.  Consequently, the only letter prefix that would now appear on Commerical vehicles would be "C", however, to meet demand, the province resorted to the use of two different sized plates (i.e. a short version for five-digit serials and a long version for six-digit serials).
1949 - 1951
Issuing Statistics
C1 to C55-250
C1 to C59-400
C1 to C65-000

1949 Commercial License Plate - Short Version

1949 Commercial License Plate - Long Version

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The ill-fated Totem base! A striking plate in terms of its auluminum design, but totally ill-suited to British Columbia's rugged climate and was ultimately done in by its poorly conceived renewal tab system.  Originally intended to last for a period of five years, the plate was abandoned within 18 months and while the passenger series would be renewed by tab in 1954, the Commercial series was issued a whole new plate (or different material) in 1954.
City of Vancouver Archives: CVA 228-385 - Traffic paint jeep
1952 - 1954: "Totem" Base
Issuing Statistics
C1 to C90-000
400001 to 485000*
C1 to C90-000
* Renewal Tabs were issued in 1953 instead of license plates.
To see a Gallery displaying how the various prefixes were issued in each year, simply Click Here.

What sets the Commercial version of the Totem base apart from the Passenger is the absence of the maple leaf encompassing the thunderbird totem - principally due to space constraints.
A minor design variation is visible in later issues where the "52" date stamp has been removed. It is thought that the transition occured after the 90,000 mark and reflects plates issued in 1953 (and which would have been validated through the use of the tab):

1952 Base - Dated Version

1952 Base - Undated Version

The series is known to have progressed beyond the 99,999 mark and was extended through the use of a "CA" prefix (above). Due to space contraints, the Commercial base was also required to use a separate renewal tab in 1953 (at right). The obvious differences are the absence of the maple leaf and the spacing of the date, with the less obvious difference being the placement of the registration number (which is vertical on the Commercial tab and horizontal on the Passenger tab).

1953 Commercial Tab

1953 Passenger Tab

This plate was rejected due to a defect under the five in "52".

1955 - 1956
Issuing Statistics
C1 to C95-000
To see a Gallery displaying how the various prefixes were issued in each year, simply Click Here.

1957 - 1963
Issuing Statistics
To see a Gallery displaying how the various prefixes were issued in each year, simply Click Here.

An odd plate type that has confounded collector's for years is the unique stacked "CF" prefix plates issued for what appears to have been a single year in 1960.
1960 Stacked "CF" Prefix License Plates
Jon Ilnytzky Collection Neale Hankins Collection
Rick Pilotte Collection
Technically, as the "CF" probably forms part of the serial number, than it should follow that these are likely Commercial Truck plates (NOTE: the Province did issue other two-digit Commercial prefix plates in 1960, such as "CA", "CE", "CH" & "CJ").
What is interesting is the use of a stacked prefix, which, while common in other jurisidictions, has never been used in British Columbia. Possibly, the use of the stacked prfix was to delineate a special type of commercial vehicle, and the image below does provide some possible hints:

This photo appeared in the October 1960 edition of "Bus and Truck Transport" and was part of an article on White Pass, a trucking firm that operated out of the Yukon Territory. The caption that accompanied this particular photo read: "Heavy chanins are carried all year round. They are used particularly on icy roads in winter, but also in summer when a truck uses muddy back roads."
Given this particular truck was registered in the Yukon (hence the 1960 Yukon Licence Plate No. T656 attached to the right of the BC plate No. "CF-1275"), but conducting business in British Columbia as well as Alaska, possibly the "CF" prefix was issued to out-of-province commercial haulers and is a forerunner of the Prorate ("P") that would be issued starting in 1962. Of course, this begs the question as to what happened in 1961, and as more information becomes available we will post it here ...

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1964 would mark the introduction of the "Beautiful" slogan, but also the last year that two letter prefixes would be used as a new single letter prefix, "J" would start be used following the exhaustion of the "C" prefix in 1965.
As Commercial vehicle registrations surpassed the 200,000 mark in 1971, the letter "K" prefix was introduced to help prolong the series.
1964: "Beautiful" Slogan
Issuing Statistics
C1 to C99-775
CE1 to CE9-999
CH1 to CH9-999
CJ1 to CJ6-775

1965 - 1971: Additional Single Letter Prefixes
Issuing Statistics
C1 to C90-000
J1 to J43-900
C1 to C96-000
J1 to J48-000
C1 to C99-999
J1 to J49-500
C1 to C99-999
J1 to J62-000
C1 to C99-999
J1 to J81-800
C1 to C96-000
J1 to J99-500
C1 to C99-999
J1 to J86-000
K1 to K37-000



1965: Decal Box Variation
The majority of the 90,000 Commercial license plates produced in 1965 with the "C" prefix are like the one shown at left, however, it is also possible to find a small bloc of plates issued early in the series with a sticker decal box in the bottom centre of the plate and a different type used on the date in the top right-hand corner.
It is thought that these plates are related to work that was being undertaken by the Plate Shop at Oakalla in anticipation of the introduction of a multi-year plate that was to be renewed through the use of a plastic registration decal. It is now know, through separate correspondance between Oakalla and the Yukon Registrar of Motor Vehicles that the Plate Shop had "purchased material that has proven to be satisfactory for periods of up to four years" and could be used with a renewal decal - "as is being employed in many of the provinces and states today". The cost of these decals was estimated at $0.07 (which included packaging in a small cellophane envelope).

1967: Overrun
Despite the introduction of the "J" prefix, Commercial plates continually ran over the allotted combinations by the late 1960s. As with the passenger plates, when the 1967 "J" plates exceeded the 49,500 combinations initially produced, the province began using the 1968 base for over-run. We know this because of the appearance of "19" in the top left-hand corner of the plates.

Issuing Statistics
730-001 to 979-000

It is thought that the 1973 Truck series commenced at number 500,000. As such, the plate shown above at far left would have been an early issue in 1973, and was used through 1975 (as evident by the decals). By 1974, the series had progressed through the 800,000 mark, and by 1975 the series surpassed the 999,999 mark. After plate 999,999 was issued an over-run series was produced and it is believed that these commenced at either 30,000 or 35,000.
1973 - 1975
Issuing Statistics
500-001 to 764-000
1974: unknown
unknown to 999-998
Paint Mishap
There is nothing particularly interesting about this plate until you turn it over and see that it was mistakenly put through the paint machine the wrong way, causing the back of the plate to be painted black.

1976 - 1978
Issuing Statistics
00-01-AA to 00-00-EC
To see how the series progressed, simply click on the letters shown above.

There is absolutely nothing scientific to the following calculation, but it took approximately 18 years for the 0000-AA serial, which first appeared on the 1976 base, to be recycled and reincarnated in 1994 on the "Flag" base.

1979 - 1986
Issuing Statistics
00-01-FA to 99-99-LY
To see how the series progressed, simply click on the letters shown above.
Alternate Base Materials
The plates pictured above show how the province experimented with both a Reflectorized base plate for commercial vehicles (at left) in the early 1980s, and the more traditional painted white base plate (at right).  It is not clear who the manufacturer of each plate was, but it is assumed to be different companies due to the dies used on each plate.

Error Plates
It is not often you find a British Columbia error plate, but the example shown above-left is just such a rare bird. As can be see, the plate displays a two letter prefix, whereas the series otherwise uses a two letter suffix - such as is shown on the plate at right.
It is not clear how many plates were affected by this misplacement of the letters in the registration number, or if they were ever even issued to motorists. Two known examples are from the mid-'KR' blolc, while another later example from the 'KT' bloc also exists (but appears to have not been issued).
The 'KT' error plate shown above-right is also not displaying the standard dash between the letter prefix and the first pair of numbers.

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One of the more interesting aspects of this particular plate type is that, since its (re)introduction in 1936, the province has continued, in one form or another, to refer to it as a "Commercial" plate up to the present day.
Yet, anecdotal evidence would seem to suggest that the vast majority of vehicles that display this type of plate are decidely non-commercial in nature and can be characterised as private pick-up trucks used for personal use. The category also encompasses emergency services vehicles such as municipal fire trucks, and public bus services.
Due to these variances, despite the proper title under the current Allocation Code used by ICBC terming these plates as "Commercial Truck", it can also refer to what the Corporation calls "light commercial trucks" (thereby encompassing personal vehicles).


Heavy Truck



Fire Trucks
1985 - 2009
Dave Hollins Collection
Issuing Statistics
0000-MB to 9999-RE
0000-RF to 9999-SY
0000-TA to 9999-TH
0000-TJ to 9999-VH
0000-VJ to 9999-WC
0000-WD to 9999-XM
0000-XN to 3999-YG
4000-YG to 9999-YG
0000-AA to 3999-AC
To see how the series progressed, simply click on the letters shown above.
Dave Hollins Collection

Veteran Base:
In 2004, the Commercial Truck plate type was included as one of the plate types that would be made available as part of an initiative by the British Columbia to recognise the service of "Veterans" to their country.

Veteran Commercial Truck license plate
It is thought that ICBC has set aside the "LV", "LW", "LX" and "LY" suffixes for use on the Veteran base - which represents approximately 40,000 plates (as of May 2010 - or six years into the program - only 6,700 Veteran Truck plates have been issued). Interestingly, this bloc represented the last of four suffixes available in the Truck series under the 0000-XX format.


Olympic Base & Allocation:
In 2007, the Commercial Truck plate type was one of the lucky six plate types - along with passenger, farm truck, motorcycle, trailer and utility trailer - to be made available on the optional 2010 Olympic Winter Games base.

Olympic Commercial Truck license plate
Of particular interest was that, at the time of the Olmypic release, the Commercial Truck series was still utilising the "0000-XX" serial format.  It is suspected that "AA-0000" through to "AK-9999" (which represents approximately 100,000 sets) has been reserved for the Olympic base, however, it is unlikely that all of these will be required and the leftover allotment will be reissued under the "Flag" graphic sometime after December 31, 2010.

The Truck series is dead, long live the Truck series!
On February 20, 2008, this writer saw the first of the new AA-0000 series Truck bases (Olympic bases not included).
As expected ICBC has simply reversed the series (a la the passenger series in 2001) and appears to have started it in the AL-0000 range - which indicates that "AA-0000" through to "AK-9999" has likely been reserved for the Olympic base. As with the Olympic & Consular bases, ICBC has also implemented the separated, or dual decal box for the day and month/year decals.

This move breaks the alphabetic trend started way back in 1976 with each iteration of the Truck base starting off where the previous series ended. For instance, the '76 base ceased at "D" (or possibly the "E" range), and the '79 base starting at "F", before ending at "L", whereupon the '85 base started at "M" and finished at "L". Accordingly, the new serial should have commenced at "M" again, however, it looks like ICBC wanted to start with a clean slate. Interestingly, the flag base and "Beautiful" slogan have been retained in favour of the "Best Place on Earth" slogan and logo... hmm... this deserves a query to the good folks at ICBC.

2009 - 2022
Tom Lindner Collection

Decal Box Variations
It appears that, despite the initial "AL" plates in this series being provided with the separted decal boxes for the day and month/year decals as found on the Olympic and Consular bases, a switch-back of sorts has occurred, whereby it appears that plates in the "AM", "AN", "AP", and "AR" range all employ the single decal box as found on the Truck base before the 0000-AA series ended.

Dual Decal Box Variation
One of our intrepid field spotters has been able to pinpoint this change-over as occurring somewhere within the bloc of plates found beetwen "AL-7324" (separated boxes) and "AL-8433" (single box).
It is likely that only the manufacturer, Waldale, knows the precise reason behind this change, however, we here at suspect that it is simply a matter of using up old stock prepared for either the Agriculture and Industrial Vehicle bases prior to a braoder implementation of the dual decal boxes onto all plate types. Nevertheless, a call has been placed to the good folks at ICBC to see if they can shed some light on this matter. Stay tuned ...


© Copyright Christopher John Garrish. All rights reserved.