Starting up a passenger service

Whether you intend to operate one vehicle or many, starting up a passenger service is a major decision that should be based on quality information and advice.

We recommend that, very early in your planning process, you get professional advice from people and organisations such as lawyers, accountants, insurance agents and Inland Revenue.

You can also contact us for advice on the vehicle use rules and regulations you must follow.

You need a transport service licence

To operate a passenger service, you need a transport service licence: either a small passenger service licence or a large passenger service licence.

  • A small passenger service has vehicles carrying 12 people or less (including the driver).

  • A large passenger service has vehicles carrying more than 12 people (including the driver). 

If you're operating a service that uses both types of vehicle, you'll need both a small and large passenger service licence. 

Transport service licence labels must also be displayed in all passenger service vehicles, as close as practical to the bottom inside of the windscreen on the passenger’s side.

Find out how to get your transport service licence
More information about transport service licence labels

Understanding the Operator Licensing Rule

The Land Transport: Operator Licensing Rule 2017 specifies the legal standards and requirements you must meet to operate a passenger service business.

In includes information for :

  • transport service licence holders (section 2)
  • additional requirements for small passenger service operators and drivers (section 3)
  • exempt passenger services (section 6)

Read the Operator Licensing Rule 2017

Vehicle requirements

Your vehicles must meet high safety standards before you can operate them in a passenger service. These include registration and annual licensing requirements, and routine certificate of fitness (CoF) inspections. Your vehicle must continue to meet these safety standards while operated in a transport service.

When buying vehicles for your business, you should also be aware of the safety features common in many modern vehicles and any features that could affect the environment.

Find out more about choosing a safe vehicle

Vehicle classes

All vehicles are defined by class, with standards applying to each class.

Find out more about vehicle classes, standards and rules

In-vehicle cameras

Small passenger service vehicles in some urban areas are required to operate an approved in-vehicle camera OR only provide services to registered passengers. 

Find out more about in-vehicle camera requirements

Land Transport Rule: Passenger Service Vehicles 1999

Additional requirements also apply to passenger service vehicles. The Land Transport Rule: Passenger Service Vehicles 1999 sets out a number of additional requirements for passenger service vehicles, which includes features such as:

  • entrance and exit (section 2)
  • aisles (section 3)
  • seating (section 4)
  • emergency exits (section 5)
  • safety design features and loading (section 6)
  • stability and structural strength (section 7)
  • safety equipment such as wheelchair hoists and ramps (section 8).

Read the Land Transport Rule: Passenger Service Vehicles 1999

Driver requirements

As a passenger service operator, you must ensure that your drivers hold a current and valid licence for the class of vehicle they are driving, and a current and valid P (passenger) endorsement. If they're driving small passenger service vehicles, they'll also need to display an ID card. 

Find out more about driver licences
Find out more about P endorsements


As a transport service licence holder, you can also access TORO (the Transport Organisation Register Online) to:

  • Check that those driving your vehicles are licensed to do so
  • Monitor your drivers’ licence status.

More information about transport service licences
Find out about TORO

Work time and logbooks

There are restrictions placed on how long the driver of a commercial or heavy motor vehicle may work before they have to take a rest break. Restricting work time helps reduce the risk of fatigue in drivers of commercial and heavy motor vehicles. 

Find out more about work time and logbook requirements
Find out more about managing fatigue

Investing in driver training

No matter how sophisticated a vehicle’s technology, driver behaviour is the most crucial factor in avoiding crashes.

You can improve safety for your drivers and other road users by investing in driver training – so they know how to use their vehicles, and have a good understanding of your expectations of their behaviour while driving.

More driver training options are available through MITO, the training organisation for the road transport industry.

Visit the MITO website(external link)


Passengers can lodge complaints to you and you must keep a record of these for at least two years. Your records must be available for inspection when requested by an enforcement officer.

You must advise the Transport Agency of any serious improper behaviour. This includes you, anyone driving for you, on behalf of, or in connection with the service you offer. This includes (but is not limited to) violence, assault, sexual offences, and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You must also notify the NZ Police. If you're unsure whether the event is ‘serious’ we recommend you contact the Transport Agency anyway.

We recommend having a record of complaints that contains the following information:

  • name, address, and contact details of the person making the complaint

  • date, time, and location of the event

  • the identity of the driver/vehicle

  • the details of the complaint

  • the name of the person taking the complaint and the date/time it was received

  • what action has been taken as a result of the complaint and who took that action

  • a record that the complainant has been advised of the result

  • any documents such as the letter or a printout of the complaint, and any letter or email communication with the complainant.

Assist with investigations

If requested, you must assist the NZ Transport Agency and/or the NZ Police in relation to any audits or investigation. 

Road user charges

You'll need to pay road user charges (RUC) if your vehicle:

  • has a manufacturers’ gross laden weight of more than 3500 kilograms, or 

  • is powered by a fuel not taxed at source, eg diesel.

Find out more about road user charges

Ensuring workplace safety

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) focuses on work ‘activity’ rather than on the physical workplace, defines duties and duty holders, facilitates effective worker engagement, and fosters a co-operative and consultative relationship between duty holders. Health and safety leadership is critical. It requires a focus from the top just like any other business risk, and managing it well is good for both your business and workers.

HSWA overlaps with transport regulations requiring transport operators to do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of their own workers and anyone else who may be put at risk by the work activity, such as passengers and other road users. This includes ensuring you have safe vehicles and safe and healthy drivers. It's important that companies and individuals understand their roles, duties, and key principles and make sure they discharge their duties properly.

Find out more about the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015(external link)

Operating vehicles safely

It’s important that you maintain your passenger service vehicles in a safe and serviceable condition at all times. Attending to faults when they become apparent will keep you in business and save you money in the long term.

Chain of responsibility

The ‘chain of responsibility’ recognises that everyone who influences a driver’s behaviour and compliance should, and must, be held accountable if that influence results in non-compliance.

More information about the chain of responsibility

Representative living in New Zealand

If you are running a small passenger service, either a person in control of the service or an official representative must live in New Zealand.

A New Zealand representative is someone who has the authority to engage with the Transport Agency on matters relating to compliance with the legislation and can accept service of legal documents on behalf of the operator.

The details of the person(s) in control and the New Zealand representative (where appointed) must be notified to the Transport Agency.

More information

Small passenger services guide [PDF, 2.1 MB]

Factsheet 2 Work time and logbooks

Factsheet 15 Passenger service vehicles

Factsheet 42 P endorsements for carrying passengers

Factsheet 47 Transport service licences

Factsheet 61 Renewing driver licence endorsements

Factsheet 70 Heavy vehicle driver licences

Factsheet 78 Passenger services: licences and requirements

Factsheet 79 SPS amendments: What are the changes to small passenger services?

If you need more help

Call our contact centre for advice on and help with complying with all transport-related rules, regulations, and vehicle standards and requirements.