Authorization of an Emergency or Service Vehicle

​The MVA must authorize a vehicle as an emergency or service vehicle in order for the vehicle operator to use the special lights, sirens or other signal equipment on it. The authorization is a separate transaction, apart from the titling and registration of the vehicle. For information about how to title and register the vehicle, access the infoMVA homepage and select the appropriate process descriptions.

What is the difference between an emergency vehicle and a service vehicle?

An emergency vehicle has a siren, exhaust whistle or bell capable of giving an audible signal, and flashing red, white and/or blue lights. An authorized emergency vehicle can also display special license plates if desired. Vehicles that can be authorized as an emergency vehicle include

  • Vehicles owned by federal, state or local law enforcement agencies;
  • Vehicles owned by volunteer fire companies, rescue squads, fire departments, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, and the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute;
  • State vehicles used in response to oil or hazardous materials spills;
  • State vehicles designated for emergency use by the Commissioner of Correction,
  • Ambulances and
  • Special vehicles funded or provided by federal, State, or local government and used for emergency or rescue purposes in this State
  • Organ Delivery Vehicles-Vehicles that are used or maintained to transport Organs on an Emergency basis and is registered to a federally designated organ procurement organization or a professional organ transportation organization.​
A service vehicle has rotating or flashing amber lights ​but no siren. Special license plates are not available for a service vehicle. Vehicles that can be authorized as a service vehicle include:

  • Vehicles owned by federal, state or local law enforcement agencies;
  • Vehicles owned by public service companies; and
  • Vehicles owned by persons performing governmental functions under a contract with any federal, State, or local government.

Note: Tow trucks must be classified as class T vehicles and roll-back trucks must be classified as either class T or class TE vehicles in order to be authorized as service vehicles.

How can I have my vehicle authorized an emergency or service vehicle?

You may apply for authorization through the MVA either as a separate transaction, or at the same time as you title and register the vehicle. You can mail your application to the MVA’s Special Plates Unit, apply in person at any of the MVA’s full service branch offices, or go to an MVA licensed tag and title service where they will assist you in applying.

Typically, you need to complete and submit an Application for Approval of Emergency or Service Vehicles to receive authorization. Be sure to check the applicable box at the top of the form: Emergency Vehicle(s) or Service Vehicle(s). The form may be used to authorize multiple vehicles. However if you want to authorize a mixture of emergency and service vehicles, use a separate form for each type.

Under certain circumstances, additional information and/or forms may be required:

  • Application for Special Tags for Authorized Emergency Vehicles – submit this form ONLY if the vehicle is an authorized emergency vehicle and you wish to have special emergency license plates displayed on it. Special plates are not available for service vehicles.
  • Lease agreement – if the vehicle is leased, submit a copy of the agreement;
  • Power of attorney  (VR-470​)-- needed if the vehicle is leased or if someone other than the owner is signing the application by permission of the owner. A copy of the registered owner(s) state issued identification must accompany the Power of Attorney and the person submitting must present their state issued identification.​ ​

An approved copy of the application will be returned to you as proof that your vehicle is an authorized emergency or service vehicle.  Be sure to keep it in the vehicle at all times


Contact Information:

Special Plate Unit
6601 Ritchie Highway, N.E.
Glen Burnie, MD 21062

For telephone questions:

MVA Customer Service Center:    1-410-768-7000
TTY/Hearing Impaired:                    1-301-729-4563​