Take a Number: License Plates Move to 8 Digits

YERUSHALAYIM -
Cars on an Israeli highway. (Flash90)

Beginning this week, new vehicles registered in Israel will sport new license plates — one with eight digits instead of the seven that vehicles on the road currently have. The reason for the change: The License Authority is running out of numbers available to give out under the seven-number system.

With a quarter million new vehicles on Israel’s roads each year, the “limit” afforded by a seven-digit licensing system — which allows for license plates for up to 9,999,999 vehicles — is quickly approaching; and according to officials, the Bureau would have run out of numbers for plates in a matter of months had the eight-digit plan not been adopted. With an eight-digit system, the Bureau can be assured of enough numbers for the next fifty years, the officials said. Right now, there are no plans to require owners of vehicles already on the road to swap their current seven-digit license plates for new eight-digit ones.

The Transport Ministry has been preparing for this moment for the past four years, Ministry officials said. The change has important implications for many groups and organizations; automatic license-plate readers at public parking lots need to be recalibrated to recognize the new system; and local authorities, banks, leasing companies, importers and others that utilize computers and scanners to recognize that vehicles were required to prepare their systems to adapt.

This is not the first change to the Israeli license-plate system. Until 1961, vehicles sported plates with 3 to 5 digits, and after that a six-digit system came into effect. Beginning in 1980, the country adopted a seven-digit system, with the last two digits being the year of the vehicle’s manufacture. That was readjusted in 1990, when seven-digit plates were distributed without regard for the manufacture year; instead, the first two digits signified the code of the manufacturer, with the rest of the digits signifying how many of that maker’s vehicles were sold.