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Correlating VIN Numbers with NATM Decal Numbers

NATM Headquarters regularly fields calls from law enforcement trying to determine if a trailer has been stolen, or trying to locate the rightful owner of a trailer. Often the VIN information has been removed or is undecipherable. Surprisingly, many thieves will remove all identification marks on a stolen trailer, but overlook the NATM Decal and leave it on the trailer with the decal-specific serial number.

This NATM Decal serial number can help law enforcement determine to whom the trailer belongs, but most trailer manufacturers do not keep records correlating the NATM Decal serial number with the VIN of the trailer on which the decal was placed. For this reason, NATM suggests trailer manufacturers keep records that correlate the NATM Decal serial number put on each trailer with the VIN of each trailer. This way, if an NATM Decal serial number is the only identifier found on the trailer, the information coupled with the manufacturer’s recordkeeping would be sufficient to determine the VIN of the trailer and provide contact information for the first retail customer of the trailer.

Another often overlooked loss mitigation strategy is to stay one step ahead of thieves by hiding an extra VIN plate or VIN stamp in a secret location on all trailers manufactured. For example, VINs could be located inside a frame rail where no one would know to look. Thieves cannot grind a VIN off a trailer if they do not know where it is located. Even if a trailer is stolen and the front roadside VIN placard is removed, this secondary “hidden” location VIN could be the critical factor that returns the trailer to its rightful owner.

Tennessee, for example, requires the VIN numbers on trailers to be stamped into the trailer. In 2004, Tennessee passed its own VIN law, TN Code Ann. § 55-5-106(f), requiring every new trailer sold in Tennessee on or after Jan. 1, 2005 to be assigned its own unique identification number and to have that number stamped on the trailer, either on the tongue or the frame. The definition of “stamped” does not include being embossed on a traditional metal VIN plate riveted to the frame. The best combination may be to utilize both the conventional riveted or stick-on type VIN placards and the stamped-into-the-frame method.

Similarly, NATM reminds members to keep theft prevention and security a priority. What can trailer manufacturers do to prevent inventory theft, or to aide in stolen trailer recovery? A variety of hitch locks, wheel locks, tracking devices and alarms are available from many NATM supplier members. Search the NATM Online Membership Directory & Buyer's Guide for locks and other anti-theft accessories at For more information, contact NATM Technical Director Terry Jones at


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