Aerial roof markings

Aerial roof markings on London bus

Aerial roof markings are symbols, letters or numbers on the roof of selected police vehicles, fire engines, ambulances, coast guard vehicles, cash in transit vans, buses and boats to enable aircraft and/or CCTV to identify them. These markings can be used to identify a specific vehicle, vehicle type or agency. The markings, depending on the vehicle, or information required, may also be displayed on the bonnet, boot, or other areas of the vehicle visible from the air.


Different State police forces in Australia use different roof/aerial markings to designate specific vehicles, duty types and areas.

New South Wales Police Force

Redfern Local Area Command 35, displaying aerial markings on the roof and bonnet. "RF" denotes the Command, being Redfern while "35" denotes its use as a general duties sedan.

Local Area Commands vehicle bonnet/roof codes

AB Albury AS Ashfield BA Barwon BB Botany Bay BK Bankstown
BL Blue Mountains BN Blacktown BR Barrier BU Burwood BW Brisbane Water
CA Campsie CB Canobolas CC Coffs/Clarence CEH Central Hunter CF Chifley
CM Cabramatta CN Camden CS Castlereagh CT Campbelltown CU Cootmundra
DL Darling River DQ Deniliquin EB Eastern Beaches ES Eastern Suburbs EW Eastwood
FA Fairfield FL Flemington FS Far South Coast GF Griffith GL Gladesville
GN Goulburn GV Green Valley HB Hawkesbury HI The Hills HR Holroyd
HS Harbourside HU Hurstville HV Hunter Valley K Kempsy KU Ku-Ring-Gai
KX Kings Cross LE Leichhardt LI Lake Illawarra LL Lachlan LM Lake Macquarie
LP Liverpool MD Mount Druitt ME Mudgee MF Macquarie Fields MG Manning/Great Lakes
MI Miranda ML Manly MN Monaro MC Mid North Coast MR Marrickville
NB Northern Beaches NCC Newcastle City ND New England NS North Shore NT Newtown
NTH North OR Orana OX Oxley PA Parramatta PE Penrith
PTS Port Stephens QH Quakers Hill RB Rose Bay RF Redfern RH Rosehill
RM Richmond SC Sydney City SG St George SH Surry Hills SM St Marys
SU Sutherland SV Shoalhaven TB Tweed/Byron TF Tenterfield TL Tuggerah Lakes
WG Wollongong WW Wagga Wagga JN Junee

Specialist squads/units and groups vehicle bonnet/roof codes

Fire appliances in New South Wales

Fire and Rescue NSW fit aerial identification markings to appliances that are indicative of the vehicles call sign. Example: "RP001" indicates the appliance is the Rescue Pumper belonging to station 001, the City of Sydney while HH077 indicates the Heavy Hazmat support truck from St Marys fire station.

Fire and Rescue NSW aerial roof ID codes

P Pumper RP Rescue Pumper HP Hazmat Pumper HH Heavy Hazmat
RT Rescue Tanker HT Hazmat Tanker R (HR) Rescue (Heavy Rescue) H (HH) Hazmat (Heavy Hazmat)
AP Aerial Pump LP Ladder Platform SEV Service Exchange Vehicle (spare) ICV Incident Control Vehicle
SV Logistical Support Vehicle FIRU Fire Investigations & Research Unit USAR Urban Search and Rescue DC Duty Commander
CT Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) Tanker

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service fits aerial identification numbers to rural fire appliances with the format consisting of the letter "B" (for Bush Fire) and the last 4 digits of the vehicles RTA approved operations plate. Example: "BF-07967" allocates an aerial ID of "7967". These markings do not denote a vehicles callsign.[1]

The South Australian Country Fire Service have an Infra-Red Beacon on the roof of most new appliances and the vehicle call sign. As all trucks are named and numbered according to their location, capacity and capability (e.g. Hynam 34, Location: Hynam, 3000L, 4WD or Belair 34P, Location Belair, 3000L, 4WD, Pumper), their call sign is also placed on the roof of the cab in a red text on white roof fashion. Older State Emergency Service vehicles, primarily in country areas, may have their call sign on the roof as well.

United Kingdom

Police vehicles

Aerial roof markings on London Metropolitan police car

Police vehicles in the United Kingdom have markings of symbols, letters and numbers on their tops to enable aircraft to identify them. These markings show the use of the vehicle, its force code and a vehicle identifying mark or the police division to which the vehicle belongs.

Not every vehicle displays markings, but those involved in response and traffic generally do. This factor stems from guidelines of the Association of Chief Police Officers relating to police air operations and pursuit management.[2]

Vehicle Usage Markings

Vehicle usage markings

On a typical vehicle roof layout, the vehicle usage marking is preceded by an integer PNC Force Identifier; the individual (and within each organisation, unique) Vehicle Identifier, commonly alphanumeric, should occupy a second line all by itself.[3]

Unique PNC force code

The Police National Computer (PNC) is used by UK police forces and other government agencies to store and retrieve data about people, vehicles, and plant and government locations. Regarding roof markings, their inscription helps identifying the regional or institutional affiliation of each vehicle. PNC force codes are also used when custody records are created, when items are submitted to places such as the Forensic Science Service laboratory, when evidence is stored, or when documents are to be passed from one force to another. They also form the first two digits of any certificate issued under the Firearms Act since the introduction of the National Firearms Licensing Management System. For example a licence issued by the Metropolitan Police will start with '02'.

Public buses

Aerial roof markings on a London bus.

Vehicles operating London Buses services carry roof markings, as shown in the image opposite. The first three letters denote the operator (ARL is Arriva London) and the remaining letters and numbers are the fleet number (VLW 92), which also appears on the front and rear of the vehicle.

Operator codes include:


Fire vehicles

In Germany, DIN 14035, "Dachkennzeichen für Feuerwehrfahrzeuge" (Roof Marking of Fire Engines), issued in November 1981,[4] defines that fire engines should carry their registration plate number; these include the one-to-three letter abbreviation code of the corresponding Landkreis, thus making regional origin self-evident. The inscription is recommended to be at least 40 cm in size; the font color should, in terms of roof painting, be "white on red", or "black on white and aluminium/metallic".[5]

As DIN standards are, however, not generally binding in Germany, but mere recommendations, the scheme is not used everywhere, with some fire companies preferring visually appealing inscriptions like company name or logo. Many others show their cars' radio call signs (traditionally "Florian ##", cf. de:Funkrufname); over the years, various local efforts have been made to match both designations, aided by district administrations that reserved registered car like designations on principle.[6]

European Union


CEN 1789, "Medical vehicles and their equipment - Road ambulances", reissued in 2007, recommends in its "informative" annex A "Recognition", that roofs of ambulance vehicles should bear the Red Cross/Crescent Emblems or the Star of Life, though use of the latter might be prohibited by copyright in several countries.


Aerial roof markings are used by Toronto Police Service (# of cruiser) and Toronto EMS (Toronto EMS with region and number) to provide identification from the air. In the Metro Vancouver, British Columbia area, the various police forces have their specific municipal code and vehicle number on the roof for airborne identification.


  1. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 5, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  2. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2011. Home Office Police Science Development Branch, publication 43/04 2004.
  3. Ibid., Appendix B
  4. Wichtige Normen für den Brandschutz Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2011-03-14
  5. FTZ Gifhorn: Dachkennzeichnung für Feuerwehrfahrzeuge Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2011-03-14
  6. Ibid., though only one example

External links

Media related to Aerial roof markings at Wikimedia Commons

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