Vehicle Lettering Regulations

Sometimes figuring out what state and federal regulations mean in real terms for your business can be a struggle. When it comes to required DOT information, marking your commercial fleet correctly is important for both safety and budget because tickets for noncompliance can be steep.

What do federal regulations say?

printed cut vinyl truck doorsThe relevant Code of Federal Regulations 49 CFR 390.21 states that the vehicle must bear the name of the operator, which generally means your company name (many also include the address), along with your DOT number preceded by “USDOT”. The letters must:

  • appear on both sides of the vehicle
  • contrast with the background color, and
  • be visible in daylight from a distance of 50 feet when the vehicle is stationary.

At Signwave we generally use black vinyl on light backgrounds and white vinyl on dark backgrounds, but we can also use custom logo colors if the contrast is appropriate.

What do NY State regulations say?

New York state regulations are basically identical to the federal regulations, with one small addition. The state regulations add that a minimum height of 2″ for individual letters is recommended. At Signwave we want to err on the side of caution, so we always create lettering that is 2″ or higher. If you operate in New York City we may even recommend a letter height of 3″ because enforcement is up to the discretion of the individual officer. Our designers are skilled at choosing fonts and placement to ensure both readability and aesthetic. Letters 3″ high can be overwhelming if not designed properly.

Custom vehicle lettering can be compliant

While compliance with federal and state regulation is always paramount, the open-ended wording of the code still allows for a little creativity. Signwave will design custom DOT lettering as part of your overall commercial fleet graphics program, keeping you on the road doing business across the island and beyond. Send us a message using the Contact Us form, or call us at 631-761-9292 to see how we can help.



Vehicle Graphics FAQ

So you want to turn your vehicle into a 24-hour-a-day billboard for your business but you’re not sure what that involves? Maybe you want to change the color of your personal car, or add some design elements to your motorcycle or boat? Below are a few of the most common questions we get when someone wants to know where to begin with vehicle graphics.

Fleet of service trucks with consistent brandingBox Truck Graphicsclean branding on the hood of each car in the fleetRetro Vinyl Graphics on a food truck

What are vehicle graphics?

We generally get two kinds of vehicle graphic requests: wraps and lettering. A wrap is created by printing with brilliant latex inks onto a specialized vinyl, then laminating it for longevity before applying it with pressure and heat to large sections of the vehicle. Wraps cover all the underlying paint so they can change the entire look of the vehicle. They’re a lot of fun and highly customizable. You can even cover windows with wrap vinyl; it’s a special perforated vinyl that gives the impression of a solid design from the outside, but you can see out from inside. Some wrap vinyl is created with specialty colors and finishes like color shifts, pearlized, matte finish, metallics, or even textures.

Lettering is done by cutting the designs out of a long-lasting, solid colored vinyl that is then transferred precisely onto the surface of your car, usually on the doors, rear, or windows. It’s a cost-effective way to use vinyl to customize your vehicle without everything that goes into a full wrap.

We can do full wraps, partial wraps, and combinations of wraps and lettering. As a custom sign shop, it’s our job to help you create exactly what you want.

How long do they last?

Most vinyls are guaranteed for two years with reasonable care. In our experience it can last much longer than that, especially if you care for your wrap properly. More on that later.

Can it be removed, and will it damage my paint?

Wraps can be removed and will not damage your paint, as long as the paint is in good condition at the time of wrapping. Most people find that the wrap protects the underlying paint.

Can you create a design for me?

You better believe it. Our experienced creative team will work with you to create the design that speaks your message best. Whether you just want to change the color of your car, or shout to the world that your business is out there and ready to serve, if you can dream it we can create it.

How much does it cost?

It depends! (You knew that was the answer, right?) Square footage, the amount of design, complexity of the install, all these contribute to the cost. All you need to do is call us or, better yet, bring your vehicle on over to our shop and we’ll get all the information we need to provide you a quote. And please don’t hesitate to tell us when you’re working in a budget, because we are happy to offer you what works best for your wallet.

How long does it take to install?

A large van will take about 2 days, where a small van or sedan would take a day. If you have graphics on your vehicle already that need to be removed, we’ll account for that in our time estimate.

How do I care for a wrapped vehicle?

Don’t wash a freshly applied graphic for at least the first week. Hand washing is best, but you can run it through a car wash if you wish. We do NOT recommend ever power washing any kind of adhesive graphics as they may lift and begin to pull away from the surface. Parking inside will help increase the longevity of your graphics, if possible.

Call Signwave at 631-761-9292 or stop by and see us. We’d love to answer your questions in person and get you started with a beautiful and profitable vehicle wrap today!



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