Volunteer drivers and exempt passenger services

Who is a volunteer driver? 

Volunteer drivers are those who’re not paid for their service as a driver. This means passengers aren’t charged for the driver’s time, or any costs not associated with the actual journey. If the vehicle carries 12 people or less, these drivers don’t require a passenger (P) endorsement in most circumstances. 

Passenger services that charge passengers for facilitating a journey, using drivers who aren’t paid for their time (eg facilitated carpooling) must hold a small passenger service licence (SPSL), but their drivers don’t need a P endorsement.

Exempt services

The Land Transport: Operator Licensing Rule 2017 (Operator Licensing Rule) specifies the passenger services that are exempt from holding a passenger service licence.

District health boards and other organisations

Passenger services operated by or under the control of a district health board, local authority, an incorporated charitable organisation, or an incorporated organisation registered under the Charities Act 2005 are exempt where:

  • the vehicle used is provided by the organisation or the driver, and

  • the driver is either a volunteer or a staff member of the organisation whose primary responsibility is not driving, and

  • the only payments made by the organisation to a driver who provides the vehicle is for reimbursing the driver for the running cost of the vehicle and does not include payment for the driver’s service, and

  • the only payment made by the passenger is for reimbursing the organisation or the driver for the running cost of the vehicle, and does not include payment for the driver’s service.

Other exempt passenger services

Other exempt passenger services include: 

  • traditional carpooling, such as arrangements between friends or neighbours to share transport, and carpooling organised by local authorities.

  • a passenger service provided by a person offering a home or community support service, where:

    • the vehicle used is designed or adapted to carry 12 people or less (including the driver), and

    • transport is provided to clients as an incidental part of the service, and

    • the client doesn’t pay a fee or fare for the transport.

  • transporting school children by parents or caregivers in a vehicle designed or adapted to carry 12 people or less (including the driver) in return for a Ministry of Education private transport allowance.

  • transporting children and their escorts to or from any activity of a school, kindergarten, play-centre or other institution providing pre-school education, where:

    • the vehicles used are designed or adapted to carry 12 people or less (including the driver), and
    • the vehicle is provided by the institution or the driver, and

    • the driver is a staff member of the institution, or a person approved by the institution, or a parent or caregiver of one of the children being carried, and

    • the only payment made by the institution to a driver who provides the vehicle is for reimbursing that person for the cost of running the vehicle, and doesn't include payment for the driver's service.

  • a small passenger service provided by an organisation offering liquor, meals or refreshments for consumption on licensed premises, where a fee or fare is not required of its passengers. 

  • a passenger service where:
    • the vehicle used is designed or adapted to carry  more than 12 people (including the driver), and

    • the vehicle used has been hired from a person who holds both a large passenger service licence and a rental service licence, and

    • the only payments made are for the cost of hiring and running the vehicle, and no payments are made for the driver's service.

For the full list of exempt passenger services, refer to section 6 of the Operator Licensing Rule.

Who isn’t exempt?

Passenger services operating small vehicles for hire or reward must have an SPSL and their drivers must hold a P endorsement.

A large passenger service licence (LPSL) is normally required by the owner or operator of a vehicle seating more than 12 people, including the driver (eg buses and large vans). Volunteers who drive these vehicles must have a P endorsement on their licence.

Insurance companies can refuse a claim and you can be prosecuted for driving without an endorsement.

Under certain conditions exemptions may apply when these vehicles aren’t being operated as a passenger service. Call us on 0800 822 422 for advice on your specific situation.

Passenger service vehicles

Vehicles used under a passenger service licence have to meet higher safety requirements than other vehicles. 

Find out more about passenger service vehicles

For more information 

Download Factsheet 18 – Volunteer drivers and exempt passenger services [PDF, 56 KB]