RECENTLY, the police put forward a proposal for standardising the number plates of all Malaysian vehicles under an e-plate (a security microchip embedded in the number plate) system.
The intention is to combat increasingly sophisticated vehicle theft, prevent fake registrations, stop the usage of fancy fonts on number plates, weed out car cloning activities and also monitor outstanding traffic summonses.
This idea was first mooted in 2016 and was supposed to be implemented the following year. In 2017, the proposed e-plate system was upgraded to include a microchip that would record the details of the owner, engine and chassis number, colour and model of his/her vehicle.
If it is implemented, enforcement agencies would only need to use scanners during operations to detect culprits of traffic or vehicle crimes instead of setting up roadblocks that would surely cause traffic jams.
Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Huzir Mohamed, who brought up the e-plate and a slew of other suggestions forwarded by the force to the Road Transport Department (JPJ) and Transport Ministry during an interview with Bernama TV, said the system is used in Singapore and Thailand while standardised government issue plates are used in Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia.
The e-plate idea is noble, but it would be almost impossible to achieve all the objectives for its implementation even if we had the budget to realise it.
From the production and installation of the e-plates to the operations and maintenance of the system, which involves getting transmitters and crew to operate and mine the data obtained, the magnitude of this project would incur heavy investment.
Back in the ‘90s, the UK Metropolitan police did a pilot project on the e-plate system. It didn’t work out as the technical aspects involved too much effort.
I asked the UK Metropolitan police about how they dealt with the problem of cloned vehicles and they said they used the number plate recognition system. They placed CCTV cameras at major roads, and once the system spots a cloned number plate, it alerts the administrator who then looks into identifying the bona fide owner.
But I do agree that Malaysia should standardise the number plates on all vehicles. An idea would be to insert the validity of the road tax on the bottom of the plates, both front and back, for example 06/21, with 06 denoting the month and 21 as the year when the tax expires.
In this way, police personnel can easily spot vehicles with expired road tax and would not have to set up roadblocks to get the job done.
However, owners of the vehicles would have to foot the cost of getting their standard-issue car plate numbers.
If the government really wants to embark on a project similar to the e-plate system, it should first amalgamate all the enforcement agencies that are issuing traffic summonses, including local authorities and traffic police.
As of now, not all are linked to the JPJ server and some summonses are therefore not captured.
The government should spend money on doing this even without adopting the e-plate or any other electronic vehicle identification system.
DATUK ALEX LYE
International Association of Auto Theft Investigators Asian Branch