This rule specifies the requirements for obtaining and renewing a driver licence or licence endorsement in New Zealand. It also specifies the requirements for driver licensing service providers.
The rule is available in consolidated format (ie, a full, up-to-date, version of the rule including all its amendments) or as the original, unamended rule with separate amendment rules. Choose the option that best suits your needs from the list below.
To access the consolidated version of the rule (available only in PDF format), click on ‘Consolidation’ below.
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Questions and answers are provided to accompany a new rule or amendment rule when it is signed. These versions of the questions and answers are not updated to take into account any later amendments to the rule and are retained for historic interest only.
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Questions and Answers for the Driver Licensing Amendment Rule 2006
The Land Transport Act 1998 allows for the Minister of Transport to make Land Transport Rules. Rules are drafted in plain English and go through an extensive consultation process with interested groups and the public. This is to ensure ease of understanding and compliance. Rules are generally prepared by the NZ Transport Agency under contract to the Ministry of Transport and, like regulations, have the power of law.
What is the purpose of the Driver Licensing Amendment Rule?
The purpose of the rule is to give effect to many of the recommendations of the 2001 independent Review of the Cost and Management of Driver Licensing Regime. The key emphasis of the review was to make the driver licensing system more responsive to people’s needs, allow greater flexibility in addressing commercial driver shortages and reduce compliance cost. The Driver Licensing Amendment Rule (DLAR) also proposed administrative changes designed to remove existing ambiguities or to provide better alignment with other provisions in the Driver Licensing Rule. New provisions have also been developed to address concerns raised through the consultation process.
The DLAR contains amendments which can affect all drivers. The majority relate to older drivers, novice drivers, commercial drivers, and overseas drivers. The DLAR does not include proposed changes to remove the mandatory on-road driving test for drivers aged 80 and over who are renewing their driver licence. Those changes are currently in the process of consultation under another amendment, but does include some interim improvements to the older driver licensing regime
There are some revisions to the licensing requirements of commercial drivers, to assist the heavy vehicle industry address its shortage of truck and bus drivers.
Amendments that relate to overseas drivers are aimed at:
Phases for implementation – what’s happening when?
Most of the changes come into effect on 1 June 2006. These include:
An improved restricted licence test will be introduced on 1 July 2006 which better targets risk factors facing novice drivers.
Has there been any consultation on these changes to driver licensing rules?
The Driver Licensing Amendment Rule 91001/2 underwent consultation with industry groups, interested government departments and agencies and the public.
The yellow (public consultation) draft of the Rule was released in June 2002 publicised in metropolitan and regional daily newspapers, the New Zealand Gazette and in the national Maori publication Te Karere National News. The draft Rule was also made available on the NZ Transport Agency website.
To renew a licence that has been expired for more than five years, an applicant must pass the theory and practical tests for the highest class of licence previously held. Holders of a motorcycle licence will need to requalify that class of licence separately.
Currently drivers are required to pass these tests if their licence has expired for more than 12 months. The change simplifies the renewal process without increasing safety risk and brings New Zealand in line with other countries. Requiring drivers whose licences have expired for more than 5 years to pass the tests was considered reasonable.
Requiring applicants to pass the tests for only the highest licence class being sought will reduce costs for licence holders, who could otherwise be required to pass the tests for each of the lower licence classes.
Please note: it is still an offence to drive with an expired licence.
What’s the background to this change?
Since 1999, a Class 1 licence holder has been permitted to drive a motor vehicle, with a GLW of up to 4,500kg. This means those who wish to drive vehicles with a GLW of over 4,500kg require a Class 2 licence, even though the vehicle may never be loaded over the 4,500kg limit.
Currently a process is in place for drivers of these vehicles to apply to the Director of Land Transport for an exemption from holding a Class 2 licence on the basis that the vehicle would not be loaded above this weight. For the period September 2000 to January 2006 5,780 exemptions have been granted, the majority involving vehicles with a GLW of not more than 6,000 kg.
Why is this change proposed?
Manufacturers’ assessments of the GLW of campervans in reality often exceed the actual loading capacity. As well, many tradespersons’ vehicles are adapted with permanent fittings to carry their trade tools, making them unlikely to exceed the 4,500kg limit.
This amendment will automatically exempt drivers of vehicles that meet the criteria from holding a Class 2 licence, thus removing the need to apply and pay for an exemption.
New Zealand has a Graduated Driver Licensing System (GDLS) by which novice drivers are gradually introduced to driving in a three-step process, learner licence, restricted licence and full licence. The system prohibits a novice driver from driving during the at-risk times between 10pm and 5am.
If you hold a Class 6L and are learning to ride a motorcycle, you cannot ride from 10pm till 5am. The new rule will now also apply to those riding a moped using a Class 1L or Class 6L licence. The change aims to eliminate the anomaly and to improve safety for those holders of a learner licence when riding mopeds.
An improved 1R test will be introduced from 1 July 2006. This test will further focus on the factors that provide the highest risk to novice drivers.
This means that all older drivers with current driver licences will be able to drive both manual and automatic vehicles (unless the ‘automatic only’ condition has been imposed due to a specific medical condition).
If you are an older driver who previously passed your driving test in an automatic vehicle you will have ‘automatic only’ printed on your existing driver licence. However, you do not need to order a new driver licence as the police will disregard the automatic only condition (unless you’re required to drive an automatic vehicle for medical reasons).
You will not be issued with a new licence unless you specifically request one (you will need to pay the cost of $31.10 for a replacement licence).
Older drivers are mailed a renewal of driver licence notice 60 days before their birthday at age 75, 80 and every second year thereafter. Their licence must be renewed within this timeframe. The change allows these drivers to start the renewal process earlier, allowing time for a Safe With Age driving refresher course and an on-road driving lesson, if they so choose.
What if someone’s health fails between taking the early tests and their birthday?
Any deterioration in health should be noted by their doctor who can advise the person to cease driving if it would be unsafe to continue. If appropriate the doctor can also notify the NZ Transport Agency.
In 1999, the GDLS for drivers of heavy motor vehicles was changed to allow for the introduction of a new licence classification system based on vehicle weights. This requires licence holders to progress from a lower to a higher licence class (Classes 2 to 5) so that they build their skills and gain experience driving smaller/lighter vehicles before being entitled to drive larger/heavier vehicles with different handling characteristics. In addition, licence endorsements are required to drive special-type vehicles (e.g. forklifts, excavators, mobile cranes).
The government recognises that the heavy vehicle industry currently faces challenges in recruiting, training and retaining drivers. A number of amendments coming into force on 1 June 2006 will assist in building workforce capacity.
What are the changes?
There are two main changes:
What vehicles do the licence classes relate to?
Licence classes are as follows:
Is there a risk to road safety?
NZ Transport Agency and the Ministry of Transport do not consider there is a risk to road safety.
The change is restricted to drivers aged 25 years and over. This is because crash statistics consistently show that drivers aged below 25 years are involved in more fatal and serious injury crashes than any other group. The risk is lower for drivers aged 25 years as they are likely to have had several years of driving experience.
Where do you find out about these training courses?
NZ Transport Agency regional offices have information on approved courses and course providers.
Why is there a shortage of heavy vehicle drivers?
The shortage of heavy vehicle drivers is a result of the increasing demand for freight and coach transport.
What does this change mean for trucking in New Zealand?
This will help create a more flexible workforce and bring greater employment opportunities to drivers. This change assists industry by reducing the time it takes to progress drivers from lower to higher licence classes. This means a more diversified workforce and helps to address a shortage of qualified heavy vehicle drivers.
What’s the matter with the old rule?
Truck drivers had to remain in a lower full licence class for six months before applying for a learner licence of a higher licence class. The aim was to encourage on-road driving experience with a supervisor, but the effect has been to impact badly on the trucking industry and the employment of truck drivers.
Changing the weight thresholds
What does this change mean for bus and truck drivers?
This change gives operators greater flexibility in assigning drivers to vehicles so increasing flexibility for the workforce and the fleet. The change will allow about 70% of buses and 20% of trucks over the 15,000 kg GLW category to be driven on a Class 2 licence.
This change will help to facilitate the more efficient use of about 200 new Man vehicles buses, with a gross laden weight (GLW) of 16,000 kg that currently cannot be driven by drivers whose licence has a maximum limit of 15,000 kg.
What other effects will this change have?
Increasing the GLW limit of rigid vehicles permitted to be driven under a class 2 licence, from 15,000 kg to 18,000 kg will allow vehicles with three axles to be driven on a Class 2 licence.
Won’t this mean that people are driving a vehicle beyond their skill?
No, differences in vehicle size and handling characteristic between 2-axle and 3-axle motor vehicles are not significant.
What vehicles do the licence endorsements relate to?
Licence endorsements are as follows:
What does this change mean for drivers of special-type vehicles
Why change these provisions?
This amendment will assist the road construction industry by allowing heavier special-type vehicles to be driven on a Class 1 licence in low speed situations. A driver of these vehicles would still need to be trained in their safe operation, and under OSH legislation employers have an obligation to ensure their drivers are adequately trained.
These changes enable employees in the road construction industry to drive heavier construction vehicles on lower classes of driver licence. A driver will still be trained in the safe operation of these vehicles as they must hold the appropriate F, R, T or W endorsement.
Special-type vehicles that run on wheels are treated slightly differently, as they often travel at low speeds even though they are capable of higher speeds. To manage the risk posed by allowing holders of a lower licence class to drive heavy ‘wheels’ vehicles, a speed restriction of 30 km/h will be imposed. If this speed is exceeded, a higher class of licence will be required.
Require an overseas driver licence or permit to be current (as well as valid) for the purpose of driving in New Zealand.
This clarifies the driver licensing rule - visitors and new residents must have a driver licence that is current (ie not expired) as well as being valid (ie acceptable to the licensing authority in the country of issue).
Require an overseas driver with a non-English licence to carry an accurate English translation or an International Driving
Permit (IDP) while driving.
This translation must have been prepared by one of the following:
Why is an English translation or an IDP required for driving in New Zealand if the overseas licence is not in English?
This will help with enforcement because it will make it easier for the police to determine at the roadside:
Why has the restriction on the time period for driving on an overseas licence been relaxed?
The current situation was identified as a potential barrier to tourists making repeated visits to New Zealand - and is inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic 1949, an international agreement with which New Zealand is obliged to comply as a signatory.
The restriction has meant that some visitors who were in New Zealand more than 12 months prior to their latest visit found it difficult to get car insurance, because the rule could be interpreted as meaning visitors were not allowed to drive unless they had converted to a New Zealand driver licence.
The new rule makes the legal requirements for visitors to New Zealand clearer and will allow people who frequently visit New Zealand to drive without having to convert to a New Zealand driver licence 12 months after their first visit.
Won’t this mean international students will be able to avoid converting to a New Zealand driver licence, since many
make frequent trips to their home country for short holidays?
Overseas drivers converting to a New Zealand driver licence are more likely to be new residents than international students. In 2005, 68% of overseas driver licence conversions were by drivers over the age of 30.
Why do we allow overseas driver licence holders to drive legally in NZ?
New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic 1949. This allows a tourist to drive temporarily as a visitor in NZ, and our citizens are also able to drive on their NZ licences when visiting other signatory countries (such as the United Kingdom).
This translation must have been prepared by one of the following:
Why is an English translation of an overseas driver licence required when applying to convert to a New Zealand licence?
This is to ensure the driver licensing agent can read and understand the detailed information on an overseas driver licence, including any conditions on that licence before it is accepted for conversion to a New Zealand driver licence.
All NZ licence holders are required to present a medical certificate when applying for licence classes 2 -5. This change removes the anomaly whereby there was no requirement for drivers converting an overseas licence to a NZ class 2 – 5 licence to present a medical certificate.
An IDP is not a driver licence, it is a translation of a national driver licence. An IDP might not list all the conditions attached to a national driver licence, so it’s important to spell out that it is not sufficient for use to convert to a New Zealand driver licence. Any conditions on a national driver licence may need to be carried over to the New Zealand driver licence.
New Zealand’s identification requirements for a driver licence applicant from overseas is weak compared to overseas jurisdictions such as Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Drivers could previously obtain a New Zealand licence by producing only their overseas licence as evidence of their identity.
The change means that driver licence applicants must show a passport as evidence of their identity. This is in addition to presenting their overseas driver licence. Removing an overseas birth certificate and an overseas driver licence from the list of identification documents improves the integrity of the New Zealand driver licence by making it harder to legitimise a false identity that could be used for illegal purposes.
This change means people cannot drive on two licences – there have been cases of people accumulating demerit points on two licences so avoiding penalties.
In the past, an overseas driver who had converted to a New Zealand driver licence could drive using either an overseas licence or a New Zealand licence. Traffic police in a roadside situation had difficulty determining if a person who presented an overseas licence had also been issued with a New Zealand licence.
This change means that once a New Zealand driver licence has been issued, the overseas licence is invalid for use in New Zealand. If an overseas driver licence is presented to the police by someone to whom a New Zealand driver licence has been issued, the police will be able to penalise the person who commits the offence.
It has been suggested that New Zealand require new residents to convert to a New Zealand driver licence within three months of arrival, as is the practice in Australia. The NZ Transport Agency does not know of any studies that provide evidence of the safety benefits of this practice. Australian authorities have said the requirement is for administrative rather than safety reasons. In addition, there would be enforcement problems, as there is no requirement for drivers to carry their passports while driving, and hence there is no way for police to know how long the person has been in New Zealand.
Land Transport New Zealand developed a highly successful brochure What’s different about driving in New Zealand? commended by Tourism NZ and also available on the NZ Transport Agency website. This has been published in five languages and a number of tourism and rental vehicle companies have links on-line to the information. NZ Transport Agency has also provided a very large number of “Keep Left” stickers to rental car companies. Another initiative has been to paint directional arrows on busy roads in areas with high tourist presence.
A NZ Transport Agency brochure in three languages New resident drivers with more detailed information has been published and widely distributed.
In 2003, international students represented less than 1% of all crash-involved drivers or 136 out of about 17,000 crash-involved drivers.
The United Nations Convention on Road Traffic 1949 imposes constraints on what changes can be made.
The small size of the overseas driver problem in New Zealand makes it difficult to justify the mandatory carrying of passports by overseas drivers while driving. Overseas drivers represented 3.8% of all crash-involved drivers, and 6% of all fatal and injury crashes in 2003. There is little information to show that overseas drivers are over-represented in crash statistics or at a higher risk of a vehicle crash compared to other groups of drivers.
Last updated: 22 March 2006