Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Complaint to Assemblyman La Malfa from David Towle, W6VNQ

January 8, 2008

Hon. Doug La Malfa, Assemblyman District 2
2865 Churn Creek Road, Suite B
Redding, CA 96002

Subject: No Space in License Plates

Dear Assemblyman La Malfa:

My name is David Towle, licensed Amateur Radio Operator, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated call sign of W6VNQ. The purpose of my letter to you is to illustrate some inconsistencies I have encountered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) processes and policies in issuing Amateur Radio license plates.

In February 2007 my call signed changed from KD6VNQ to W6VNQ. After receiving my new call sign, I took my old call sign license plates to the California Department of Motor Vehicles Office in my resident county of Colusa. I submitted the necessary forms along with a copy of my FCC issued license and requested a new plate with the new call.

In May my new plates arrived, but the plate contained the call sign N6VNQ, not my correct call sign of W6VNQ. It is also important to point out that the N6VNQ call sign contained no spaces, and was centered on the plate. This format is consistent with FCC issued call signs and what FCC Amateur Radio licensees would expect to see on a license plate. The plates were returned to the same DMV Office and I requested corrected plates be issued. In late October the corrected plates arrived. However, this set contained a space between the 6 and the V (W6 VNQ), and was right justified.

These plates were taken back to the same DMV Office and a request was made for the proper plates. I was told that certain plates were given spaces within the new DMV computer system. I explained that Amateur Radio call signs were issued by the FCC and do not contain spaces. When asked why the original incorrect plates N6VNQ were issued without a space the DMV representative had no explanation. The person waiting on me called the DMV Office of Registration while I was present and was told Amateur Radio license plates had always contained spaces. I have been a license Amateur Radio Operator for 15 years and have never seen an Amateur Radio license plate with a space.

After returning home I began calling the DMV Office of Registration to further clarify the situation. After three days of calling, someone answered the phone and I was able to speak with a representative. I was told that spaces have always been required for Amateur Radio license plates in California and nothing could be done to change the plates. I then asked the department representative if I returned the plates could I then apply for a Personalized license plate with my call sign. I was told no because the sequence resembled a Specialized license plate.

In early December of 2007 I took my plates with the space to a DMV Office in Yolo County. The person helping me was unfamiliar with Amateur Radio license plates and asked his supervisor and office manager for assistance. At first they could not find the license plate and my registration information in their computer, regardless of how the data was entered. I asked if they needed to enter a code of some kind and if so try “H”. They did this and found my plate and registration information. The office manager told me I could get the plate as I requested, with consecutive sequence of letters and numbers as well as center justified. She had me sign a new amateur radio plate request form and instructed the person helping me on how to complete the form so that I received the correct plate. Based on prior time frames I expect to receive the new plates sometime late February. Until then I will not know if the plates will be as requested or not.

Amateur Radio Operators provide emergency support to many agencies across the state. The potential for law enforcement agency staff not able to properly identify Amateur Radio license plates is very real. If a DMV office can not locate the information how are law enforcement agencies expected to locate the information?

Like other Amateur Radio Operator’s in the state, I am proud to display my call sign on my vehicles license plate. I have paid for a State of California Amateur Radio license plate displaying my call sign as issued by the FCC. It was not until I received the second incorrect license plate (W6 VNQ) that I was told that a space would be inserted in the call sign. Based on call sign’s on license plates I have seen in the last 15 years I had no reason to believe that a space would be inserted.

I am not alone in this situation. Currently a petition is being circulated in the Amateur Radio community though-out California to address this issue. Assemblyman Mike Feuer’s (42nd District) office has also been contacted by Amateur Radio Operator’s in the Los Angeles area. A website to find resolution to these and other inconsistencies in California Department of Motor Vehicles processes and policies related to Amateur Radio license plate issuance can be found at: http://nospacehamplates.blogspot.com/.

Other states have placed symbols or wording such as “Amateur Radio” on call sign license plates to assist in identifying the registered owner as a Amateur Radio Operator. If the State of California can place various types of markings on Personalize license plates, why not for Amateur Radio license plates? Another option would be to stamp the plates with the correct sequence as shown on the FCC license, and educate users of the DMV license database of the proper code to differentiate Amateur Radio plates from Personalized plates

Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter. If additional information is needed I am available to speak or meet with you at your convenience.


Harry David Towle, W6VNQ
Arbuckle, CA xxxxx

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