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U.S. Government

When New Mexico first began licensing motor vehicles in 1912 there were no exceptions for either state- or federally-owned vehicles. These were issued regular “civilian” license plates at no charge, but the agencies which owned the vehicles also had the option of providing their own plates. In 1931 the state introduced a purpose-made tag called the U.S. Official plate for use by federal vehicles. As time went by, more and more individual federal agencies began providing their own plates, prompting the federal government in 1942 to create a standardized red, white and blue “federal shield” plate. The agencies using these new plates were identified by the serial number’s alpha prefix. By far the most common of these in New Mexico were “A” for Department of Agriculture and “I” for Department of the Interior. For other federal government plates used in New Mexico, see Civilian Conservation Corps and Boat.

The U.S. Soil Erosion Service existed only from September 1933 to April 1935, at which time it was renamed
as the U.S. Soil Conservation Service.  This plate was found in the Estancia Valley of New Mexico near Willard,
an area renowned for dryland farming of pinto beans until the destructive drought years of the 1930s.
Courtesy Jim Fox.
            Department of Agriculture Department of the Interior           

Modern U.S. Government Plates
seen in New Mexico

By statute, Federal vehicles are required to be conspicuously identified by displaying “For Official Use Only,” “U.S. Government,” and the name of the agency owning the vehicle. Current U.S. Government license plates are designed to comply with this requirement, obviating the need to display this information elsewhere on the vehicle. These license plates are issued in two sizes, as follows:
1. Regular sized plate for sedans, trucks, and most trailers
2. Smaller motorcycle size plate for motorcycles, ATVs, small
    trailers, and similar vehicles.

U.S. Government License Plates are issued as a 2-plate pair (an A plate and a B plate, each so designated in the lower left corner) for front and back of sedans and trucks, and as a single plate for trailers and motorcycles (the A-plate only). Cars and trucks must always display both the A and B plates, even if the state where used requires only a single plate. All of these plates bear an expiration date and expire in 8 Years 6 months from issue.

Since October 2014 all modern Government license plates are supplied by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in the format described above. Vehicles acquired by the agencies themselves receive license plates with a unique identifying prefix, a table of which can be seen by clicking here. Agencies which choose to have the GSA supply the vehicles to them through the GSA Interagency Motor Pool receive GSA license plates with a prefix of G followed by two numeric digits identifying the type of vehicle. To see a table of the vehicle prefixes, click here and scroll down to PDF page 3.

Generic embossed motorcycle plate. Observed circa 2000 on a Bureau of Land
Management all terrain utility vehicle, near the end of the embossed plate era.

Department of Agriculture - U.S. Forest Service. Observed September 22, 2020
in Lincoln National Forest on an all terrain utility vehicle, near Cloudcroft, NM.

Agriculture Department - U.S. Forest Service. Observed July 19, 2022 in Carrizozo, NM.

Department of Defense. Observed May 3, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM.

Department of Homeland Security - Border Patrol. Observed circa August 2022, Las Cruces, NM.

Energy Department Trailer. Observed circa July 2018 in Albuquerque.

Interior Department - Bureau of Land management. Observed July 1, 2022
on a tracked front loader in Organ Mountains National Monument.

Interior Department trailer. Observed July 11, 2022 on a flatbed trailer in Organ Mountains
National Monument. The plate was bent to conform to the shape of the fender it was mounted on.

Interior Department. Observed July 5, 2022 on a large road construction
water truck, Organ Mountains National Monument.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration - NASA. Observed circa
June 2022, Las Cruces, NM.

National Science Foundation - National Solar Observatory. Observed
October 7, 2016 at the National Solar Observatory, Sunspot, NM.

Unknown Agency using “S” prefix. This is an agency-issued tag rather than a GSA-issued plate.
The agency using it is unknown. Observed circa March 2016 in Albuquerque.

Veterans Administration. Observed circa October 2022, Las Cruces, NM.

G10 - GSA Interagency Motor Pool, on a Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan. Observed
August 3, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM. The G10 prefix designates a compact sedan.

G13 - GSA Interagency Motor Pool, on a Ford Focus sedan. Observed
August 3, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM. The G13 prefix designates a subcompact sedan.
This plate is bent in several places, particularly on the right side and at the bottom.

G41 - GSA Interagency Motor Pool, on a Dodge Caravan, which the manufacturer refers to as a “family van.”
Observed August 3, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM. The G41 prefix designates a light truck, 4x2, under 6,000 GVWR.

G42 - GSA Interagency Motor Pool. Observed circa June 2022 in Las Cruces, NM.
The G42 Prefix designates a light truck, 4x2, 6,000 to 8,499 GVWR.

G43 - GSA Interagency Motor Pool, on a Chevy van. Observed July 13, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM.
The G43 prefix designates a 4x2 light truck, 8,500 to 12,499 GVWR.

G61 - GSA Interagency Motor Pool, on a Chevy Equinox. Observed July 13, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM.
The G61 prefix designates a 4x4 light truck, under 6,000 GVWR.

G62 - GSA Interagency Motor Pool, on a Chevy Tahoe. Observed July 13, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM.
The G62 prefix designates a 4x4 light truck, 6,000 to 8,499 GVWR.

G63 - GSA Interagency Motor Pool pickup truck. Observed July 11, 2022 in Las Cruces, NM.
The G63 prefix designates a 4x4 light truck with an 8,500 to 12,499 lb. GVWR.

Photo credits: Department of Agriculture A1277 courtesy of Greg Gibson and Jim Fox. Department of the Interior I-9657 by Bill Johnston.

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