When buyers look for a commercial truck, they need to know exactly what they are getting. One of the fastest ways to get detailed information is by using its vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN is a 17-character number identifying the code for a specific vehicle; as such, the VIN is unique for each car and truck, much like a fingerprint for each person, and no two vehicles in operation have the same VIN. Specifically, the VIN reveals the vehicle’s unique features, specifications, and manufacturer.
That’s why so many potential commercial truck buyers conduct commercial VIN checks, which can reveal damage, the last recorded odometer reading, accident history, inspection information, title information, and much more.
Because so much rests on a commercial truck’s VIN, manufacturers must format their VIN labels properly. However, there are several steps commercial truck manufacturers must complete in order to obtain the VIN before they even can ensure their label formatting is correct:
- Obtaining a VIN for Commercial Trucks
- VIN Information for Commercial Truck Manufacturers
- Commercial Truck VIN Label Format
Obtaining a VIN for Commercial Trucks
Commercial truck manufacturers must equip their vehicles with the appropriate data plates and labels. To do so, they must first obtain a World Manufacturing Identifier (WMI) from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The WMI is embedded in the VIN for all manufactured commercial vehicles and is used to identify your company as the manufacturer of record. Next, you must register with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
VIN Information for Commercial Truck Manufacturers
As a manufacturer, you are charged with generating your own VINs using the NHTSA’s VIN formula. NHTSA provides manufacturer identifier assignments at this link. The content of each VIN varies by the type of vehicle and information decipherable, as detailed in Part 565.15:
- Positions 1-3 of the VIN consist of three characters uniquely identifying the manufacturer and motor vehicle type, if the manufacturer is a high-volume manufacturer; on the other hand, if the manufacturer is a low-volume manufacturer, positions 1-3 and 12-14 of the VIN uniquely identify the manufacturer and type of motor vehicle. Note, the third position of the VIN shall be a “9” if the manufacturer identifier is six characters.
- Positions 4-8 of the VIN uniquely identify the attributes of the vehicle, as specified by Part 565.15 Table I. For trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, position 7 is alphabetic. While the characters used and their placement within positions 4-8 may be determined by the manufacturer, the specified attributes of the vehicle must align with information in 565.15(c). Note, the gross vehicle weight rating must follow Part 565.15 Table II.
- Position 9 of the VIN is a check digit that serves as a means for verifying the accuracy of any VIN transcription. The check digit specifically is calculated using the mathematical formula described in Part 565.15, paragraphs (c) (1) through (4).
- Position 10 of the VIN refers to the model year. Note, if position 7 of the VIN is numeric, position 10 refers to a year between 1980-2009, while position 10 of the VIN refers to a year between 2010-2039 if position 7 of the VIN is alphabetic.
- Position 11 represents the plant of manufacture.
- Positions 12-17 represent the number assigned by the manufacturer in the production process if the manufacturer is a high-volume manufacturer. If the manufacturer is a low-volume manufacturer, positions 12-14, combined with positions 1-3, identify the manufacturer and the type of the motor vehicle while positions 15-17 represent the number sequentially assigned by the manufacturer in the production process.
Overall, the commercial trucks that you manufacture must feature VINs with attributes that include the make, model or line, series, gross vehicle weight rating, engine type, brake system, cab type, and chassis.
Commercial truck manufacturers then submit their VINs to the NHTSA with a letter of introduction. Keep in mind that individual states also may have their own registration requirements and regulations, so you will need to follow them in addition to federal requirements. For example, Colorado requires that all power units display the last eight digits of the VIN on the passenger side of the unit; the VIN must be visible from 50 feet away in a contrasting color to the cab.
Commercial Truck VIN Label Format
Commercial truck manufacturers also must follow requirements for the location and readability of the VIN. Part 565.23 specifies: “The VIN of each vehicle shall appear clearly and indelibly upon either a part of the vehicle, other than the glazing, that is not designed to be removed except for repair or upon a separate plate or label that is permanently affixed to such a part.” Thus, commercial truck VINs may appear on the vehicles’ data plates.
To ensure readability over time, durable VIN data plates are key for commercial trucks. Metalphoto® photosensitive anodized aluminum is the material of choice for commercial trucking operations to ensure regulatory compliance.
The general requirements of Part 565.23 also state that each character of the VIN must be a letter of the English alphabet or a digit in the base 10 numeral system and that the typeface utilized for each VIN must consist of capital, sanserif characters.
Commercial truck manufacturers must format and label vehicle VINs correctly. The first step is completing the steps for obtaining a VIN for each vehicle you manufacture. Then, you must include the correct information in the VIN. Finally, you need to ensure that your label format is correct.