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Transport service licences (Factsheet 47)

Published: 01 2015

This factsheet explains when transport service licences are required and the process for getting these.

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Transport service licences

Drivers and operators of freight, vehicle recovery and passenger transport services industries are required to comply with a range of rules and regulations. In most cases this includes holding an appropriate transport service licence.

These regulations and rules assist transport service licence holders to run successful and compliant businesses while ensuring safe management practices and protecting other road users.

This factsheet provides advice on how to obtain a transport service licence. On the last page, there is guidance on where to find more complete information.

Who needs a transport service licence?

Whether you're an individual or a company, you must hold the appropriate transport service licence if you're operating any of the following types of service:

A goods service

A goods service delivers or carries goods, whether or not for hire or reward, using a motor vehicle that has a gross laden weight* of 6000 kg or more, including one that is 'on hire' to carry goods.

* Gross laden weight is the greatest of the following:

  • any weight specified as a vehicle's gross laden weight by the vehicle's manufacturer
  • any weight specified as the gross laden weight of a particular kind of vehicle by the NZ Transport Agency 
  • the weight of a vehicle together with any load it is carrying, including any equipment and accessories.

A passenger service

A passenger service carries passengers; usually for hire or reward.

There are two types of passenger service: small and large.

  • A small passenger service uses vehicles that carry 12 or fewer people (including the driver), for hire or reward. Small passenger services include taxi services, shuttle services and private hire services. Dial-a-driver services are also small passenger services but the vehicles used in these services are not passenger service vehicles. There are special rules for taxi services that do not apply to other small passenger services – see factsheet 4 Taxi drivers and area knowledge certificates.
  • A large passenger service uses vehicles that are designed or adapted to carry more than 12 people (including the driver), whether or not they operate for hire or reward..

A vehicle recovery service

A vehicle recovery service tows or carries vehicles. It requires a transport service licence if it isn't exempt under the Land Transport Act (eg you don't need a transport service licence to tow a friend's car with your own in the case of a breakdown).

A rental service

A rental service hires out vehicles to carry goods or passengers.

Penalties for operating an unlicensed service

It's illegal to operate an unlicensed transport service of the kinds described above. If you're convicted, you may face a fine of up to $10,000. The fine increases to a maximum of $25,000 for subsequent convictions.

In addition to the fine, the court may impound vehicles used in an unlicensed service for up to 90 days (no matter who owns them).

How to apply for a transport service licence

Fill out an application form

You need to fill out and submit an application form. You can download application forms from our website. You can also get one from the contact centre, 0800 822 422.

Post your completed application form to:

NZ Transport Agency
Private Bag 11777
Palmerston North 4442

making sure you have provided everything necessary for the application.

What do I have to provide?

You need to provide:

  • the application fee of $449.80
  • a certificate of knowledge of law and practice relevant to the transport licence you are applying for, except if you are going to operate a dial-a-driver or rental service
  • the personal details required in the application form, including a statement asserting that the information supplied in the application form is correct and that you are not disqualified from holding or obtaining a transport service licence.

What is the criteria for approval?

Any person that will hold the licence or will be in control of the transport service must complete a personal details form and will have to meet the legal 'fit and proper person' criteria.

Certificate of knowledge of law and practice

One of the requirements for getting a transport service licence is that either the licence holder or a person in control of the service must hold a certificate of knowledge of law and practice. This shows that the holder of the certificate has the required knowledge of the laws and practices relating to the safe, efficient and proper operation of a transport service.

How do I get the certificate?

To get a certificate of knowledge of law and practice, you have to pass a test run by Assessment Systems Limited (ASL). ASL's contact details are:

Assessment Systems Ltd
PO Box 30343
Level 9, Avalon Tower
Percy Cameron St
Lower Hutt

Phone: (04) 913 9812
Fax: (04) 913 9816

The test covers the rules relating to the type of service you will be operating and specific knowledge relating to the requirements and responsibilities of a transport service licence holder. There is an individual handbook for each class of service.

What are the costs for a certificate?

Handbook and test Current price as at 1 January 2014
TSL handbook – Knowledge of law and practice (includes postage & packaging) $49.50
Goods, passenger or recovery
Optional extras
Reader assisted $470.00
On-demand examination $372.00
Interpreter exam $883.00

Who might be exempt from holding a certificate?

The requirement to obtain and hold a certificate of knowledge of law and practice does not apply to operators of rental services and operators of dial-a-driver services. You still must hold the appropriate transport service licence.

In special circumstances, the Transport Agency may waive the requirement for other transport service operators to hold the certificate where the service is limited or infrequent. An example is a truck that is used to carry apples in the picking season, but that only carries bits and pieces around the orchard for most of the year. Generally, exemptions are granted for operators who are carrying their own goods and not for hire or reward.

The application form for an exemption is available from our contact centre, by calling 0800 822 422.

Complete the application form when you apply for your transport service licence.

About the tests

The ASL website has excellent information on the test, including sample test questions.

The test questions are based on the Knowledge of law and practice handbook. You can buy the handbook online from ASL.

The test, which is computer based, is ‘open book’, which means you may take the handbook into the test with you. Handbooks are not supplied by ASL at the test venue. .

An example of how the computer based test works can be found on the ASL website.

You have up to two-and-a-half hours to complete the test and you must score 80 percent or higher to pass the test.

Test standards are set and audited by the Transport Agency.

What identification do I need to bring to the tests?

On the day of the test, you'll need to show identification that has both your photograph and signature on it (eg your driver licence or passport). If you don't present acceptable identification, you won't be able to sit the test. You can find out more about acceptable identification on the ASL website.

When does the test take place?

ASL has timetables for when the test takes place in different areas. These are available on the ASL website.

ASL offers an 'on demand' option, which reduces the waiting period but costs more.

ASL offers an 'on demand' option, which reduces the waiting period but costs more.

How do I apply to sit the tests?

You can book your exam up to 24 hours before the exam starts, subject to availability.

Existing candidates who have a current ASL client number

Go to the ASL website and click on NZ Transport Agency. Go to Login on the left hand side menu, enter the username and password and follow the prompts. Then click on Book Exam on the left hand side menu.

Is this your first time with ASL?

Follow the prompts to either order your exam electronically or download the ASL417 form and post it together with payment (cheque made out to Assessment Systems Ltd) to the ASL offices at:

Assessment Systems Ltd
PO Box 30343
Lower Hutt

If your application is incomplete ASL may return the form to you for completion. If your application is not received in time for the exam booking to proceed, you may be booked in to the next available session.

For information on transfers to different test dates, cancellations or refunds refer to the ASL website.

Note: This information is provided as a general guide only, and does not cover everything in the law. It is not the source of the law.

Further information

If you have any questions regarding getting or holding a transport service licence, phone our contact centre for advice (details below).

Or contact the NZ Transport Agency:

  • Email
  • Call our contact centre on 0800 822 422.
  • Write to us: NZ Transport Agency, Private Bag 11777, Palmerston North 4442.

About factsheets

The information in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not the source of the law.