Monday, January 14, 2008

Complaint & Historical Note, Paul Smith, K7PLS

[Editor's Note - The website Paul refers to in his letter below is out of context. The website is a license plate collector's site. Collectors like to collect the unusual, ham callsign plates with spaces in them were unusual prior to Nov. 2007. It is incorrect to conclude the DMV's *PRACTICE* has always been to put a space in ham callsign license plates. DMV may or may not have had a written policy to put a space in but the *PRACTICE* was to stamp the plates without the space; to ignore the policy. In Nov. 2007, a new Mgr., Mr. Mario Bilbiani took over management of license plate issuance. Mr. Bilbiani sent word to my Assemblyman, Mike Feuer's office that his predecessor has been doing it wrong, issuing plates without a space and he was going to fix it].

Hi Cliff,

I have visited your blog site and read the information on the problem of spaces being inserted into the callsign structure of amateur radio license plates in California. I, too, am having the same problem with the California DMV. In August 2007 I ordered some callsign plates for my new 2007 vehicle. In early December I received the plates only to be surprised with the space in the plates. I returned to the Automobile Club of Southern California’s DMV clerk in the San Bernardino office, where the plates were originally ordered. The clerk agreed with me that there was a problem. She accepted my order for new plates, photo copied my plates and included a description of what the necessary layout was supposed to be. She hadn’t heard of any regulations to the contrary at that point and I hadn’t heard of the global problem, either. I am still waiting to see the outcome (about 8 weeks now and waiting).

Having said all of that, I refer you to the website at . Here, you will notice that California has had a history if issuing plates with a space in the callsign. Both the 1956 series and the 1963 series had spaces in the 5 character callsigns. The six character callsigns didn’t get spaces due to the fact that the font size was for a maximum of six characters on the plate. Therefore, no space could occur with a 6 character one. It is unknown if there were any issued after that until recently. If you visit you will see that there were a number of other states that have also, historically issued callsign plates with spaces in them. Some included some design, such as a lightning bolt in the space. Notice that the 1963 series 6 character license plate for California also has a space in it (WA6 QIS).

I ordered a new plate for a vehicle in about 1988 with a 4 character callsign (AF6J). My registration certificate came out reading AF6…J. I queried DMV and they had no explanation for this other than it was a computer issue. I worked with a local law enforcement agency at the time and had their people run the plate a number of different ways. Running the plate using DMV code A (for a passenger car plate) came back “Information Not On File” with any combination of spaces (i.e. A..F6J, AF..6J, AF6..J, etc.). When run with DMV code H (for Ham Radio), it didn’t matter what combination of spaces were used, they all returned the same correct information for my vehicle. It seems that the computer has to have something in both spaces 1 and 7 and doesn’t care if there is 1 or more spaces in the combination. As you probably know, the plates are made essentially by hand, still. As far as I know, the information for the plate being processed is being input by hand and they can make the plate look any way that they want to. This is especially true with the “Vanity Plates” as there are any number of ways to put them together.

One recommendation that I have is to look at the current Nevada Radio Amateur license plate. First, it is the new Digital style plate that doesn’t include any embossing or punching. Secondly, it is a 7 character plate. All amateur radio callsigns are no more than 6 digits at the present time (including foreign plates for which callsign plates aren’t authorized in the U.S.). In space #1 there are the words “Radio Amateur” entered vertically to occupy only space one. The rest of the 6 digit callsign is entered correctly in the remaining 6 places. It is immediately identified as an Amateur Radio plate and the sequence of letters/number are correct. Everybody is happy. Since California already has graphics and symbols for its vanity and other special plates, it shouldn’t be a problem to create a special field in either space 1 or space 7 for this purpose. For anyone encouraging any regulation for this, please, specify space 1 or 7 only and not allow any spaces to be included in any callsign sequence.

Amateur radio has had a long history and tradition in the state of California. The amateurs in this state are amateurs in name only. They are a very professional group and provide the necessary support to the Public Safety first responders in this state. The license plate should stand out and be one that is easily recognized and accepted by the Public Safety organizations and the public.

Paul L Smith, K7PLS, AAR9BJ
Fontana, CA

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