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Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002 (Revoked 1 February 2017)

(Revoked: 1 February 2017)

(See Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2016)

The rule covers requirements for dimension and mass limits to enable vehicles, in particular, heavy truck and trailer combinations, to be operated safely on New Zealand’s roads.

Rule versions

  • The ‘Current rule’ will give you the most up-to-date version of the Rule and any amendments made to it. We recommend this as your reference point if you want to read the most current information.
  • The ‘Original rule and amendments’ will give you the very first version of the rule (as it was when it was first created) as well as links to all amendments made to it over time. We recommend this page as your reference page if you want to research the history of the rule.

Note: Both of these pages will also provide links to the consultation material – such as summary of submissions and FAQs (questions and answers) – for each version and amendment.

Questions and answers

Questions and answers are provided to accompany a new rule or amendment when they are signed. These and other consultation documents on this page have not been updated to take into account any later rule amendments and are retained for historic interest only.

Land Transport Rules

Questions & answers

Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule 2010

What is the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule?

The Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002 specifies requirements for dimension and mass limits for vehicles operating on New Zealand roads. The rule sets in place a regulatory regime so that vehicles, in particular, heavy truck and trailer combinations, are operated safely.

What will the amended Rule allow?

The amendment rule Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Amendment 2010 will make changes to the Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002 to allow:

  • A permit regime for road controlling authorities to issue permits for high productivity vehicles, up to 20 metres in length, to operate above 44 tonnes on specified routes. This category will represent the majority of permits.
  • Some increases in vehicle lengths to allow certain vehicles to operate without the need to obtain a permit (eg logging trucks that already operate at 22 metres overall length).
  • For longer high productivity vehicles there will be an additional approval required from the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA). These permits would be for specific tasks and would be the exception rather than the rule. This will allow road controlling authorities to issue permits for vehicles that exceed 20 metres in length. Any vehicle over 53 tonnes will fall into this category.

The amendment Rule also contains some other changes:

  • Overall length allowed for certain types of ‘rigid bus’ to reflect the dimensions currently permitted for some buses under exemptions has been extended (ie from 12.6m allowable length to 13.5m).
  • Allows buses to be fitted with bicycle racks which may project beyond the overall allowed length or dimension of the vehicle.
  • Exempts certain over dimension farm vehicles from the need to comply with travel time restrictions in the Rule if they are able to travel without taking up more room than the lane they are using (ie moving into other lane).

What is the current weight/length limit for vehicles on New Zealand roads?

The current gross weight limits depend on the number and layout of the vehicles axles. The heaviest permitted weight without a permit is 44 tonnes and 20 metres in length.

When do the provisions in the amended Rule become law?

1 May 2010.

Why has the Rule been amended?

The rule has been amended to assist with the government’s objectives to boost jobs and economic security by increasing productivity and growth in the New Zealand economy.

New Zealand’s freight task is forecast to increase by 70 to 75 percent over the next 25 years (NZ Freight Study 2008). While all transport modes will carry their share, the nature of the freight means that a lot of it will be carried by road.

There are significant productivity gains to be realised by allowing heavy vehicles to operate outside the current mass and dimension limits by using fewer trucks to carry the same amount of freight without reducing the safety of road users.

The permit system for vehicles operating between 44 and 53 tonnes will encourage operators to identify areas where there could be significant productivity benefits through matching freight task, vehicle capability and infrastructure capability. A permit system will also enable the impacts of heavier vehicles to be properly managed.

If the current mass and dimension limits remain as they are the increase in freight movements will adversely impact on New Zealand’s roading network through increased truck movements and congestion, increased fuel use, and reduced international competitiveness as a result of not being able to increase efficiency.

Were changes to the Rule consulted on?

Yes. Consultation was carried out with key stakeholders over a two year period and public consultation occurred from 29 June - July 24 2009 (with late submissions accepted to 21 August).

What are the benefits of the Rule amendment?

Improved heavy vehicle productivity under the right conditions will enable a given amount of freight to be carried on fewer trucks. This will help to improve road safety while reducing road congestion, operating costs, and vehicle emissions.

The permit system for vehicles operating between 44 and 53 tonnes will encourage operators to identify areas where there could be significant productivity benefits through matching freight task, vehicle capability and infrastructure capability. A permit system will also enable the impacts of heavier vehicles to be properly managed.

Further, a report commissioned in 2007 by the Ministry of Transport and Transit New Zealand (now part of the NZ Transport Agency) and trials carried out by the Ministry of Transport in 2008 and 2009 found that under the right conditions there could be:

  • An increase in productivity of 10-20 percent
  • A decrease in fuel use of up to 20 percent
  • A decrease in the number of trips of up to 20 percent

How much will this boost GDP?

Studies by Opus Consultants, NZIER and the Pearson Transport Centre over the past few years have suggested that a change in mass and dimension limits for heavy vehicles could result in an increase in GDP of between $180 and $500 million a year.

Does this mean that there will be bigger trucks on the roads?

Trucks carrying heavier loads will not be any wider or higher than trucks on the road at present; however in some cases they may be slightly longer. Generally, the same trucks will simply be maximising existing capacity.

Will trucks be any longer?

Some trucks, that currently operate under permit at 22 metres overall length will be able to operate at this length ‘as of right’. This includes trucks such as logging trucks, car transporters and vehicles transporting empty containers.  This will reduce administrative processes and costs for road controlling authorities.

This ‘as of right provision’ only apples to certain types of trucks – it is not an across the board increase in vehicle length.

Vehicles operating at this length will be required to have an under-run system to prevent other vehicles going under the rear of the truck.

Other vehicles that wish to operate at more than 20 metres will require an over dimension permit to be approved by the NZTA.

Will vehicles carrying heavier loads be safe?

Any vehicle issued with a permit to operate at a heavier weight under a permit system will have to meet all appropriate safety requirements.

Are there restrictions on what roads/routes the heavier vehicles can travel?

The roads that are allowed to be used by vehicles will be specified in their permit. Road controlling authorities will have the final say on whether roads/routes are suitable for heavier vehicles within their jurisdiction; local authorities for local roads and the NZTA for state highways. Over-dimension permits will be approved by the NZTA or agents appointed by the NZTA.

Why not provide open access for road transport operators?

Not all roads and other infrastructure such as bridges can handle heavier loads. The permit system will allow for access to appropriate routes to be managed.

Will heavier trucks be identifiable?

Yes. A special sign will be fixed to the front and rear of a high productivity motor vehicle.

How will the permit system be policed?

It will be monitored by the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Unit of the NZ Police as part of its normal road policing function. 

Will there be additional infrastructure costs as a result?

Increased wear and tear will be met through the increased road user charges. Local road controlling authorities receive about 50 percent of this via Funding Assistance Rates (FAR) from the Crown, with the remainder met by ratepayers who benefit from the regional stimulus and economic and community benefits.

The NZTA funds maintenance on State highways.

How much will this cost?

A number of cost estimates have been made on the likely impact of allowing heavier vehicles to operate on specific routes (noting the rule change is not for an across the board increase in vehicle weights). These costs are related to pavement wear and tear and the likely cost of upgrading some bridges.

The estimate for pavements have ranged from $10 - $20 million (which will be covered by operators who will pay increased Road User Charges for heavier vehicles) and around $85 million for bridges.

Work is continuing in order to further analyse these costs and this will form part of the process to implement the Rule amendment.

Will the operation of heavier vehicles affect roads and bridges?

Heavier vehicles will only operate on routes approved by the relevant road controlling authority and these will be assessed for their ability to handle the permitted vehicles.

It is expected that there will be some bridges that cannot accommodate heavier vehicles and these will be excluded from use through the permit system until and unless they are strengthened or replaced.

While heavier vehicles can be expected to cause greater wear and tear on the roads they use, the increased road user charges that they will pay will offset these costs.

Will heavier loads increase emissions?

Heavier vehicles use more fuel than lighter vehicles, but the difference is small. It will be outweighed by the greater load on each truck and the consequent lower trip numbers, bringing an overall reduction in emissions.

During trials commissioned by the Ministry of Transport, emissions from both heavier and existing trucks were measured to assess if there was any measurable or significant difference in emissions. Differences in emissions between 44 tonne and 50 tonne loads were found to be negligible.

Will these trucks still be able to go on ferries?

Yes, heavier trucks will be able to use ferries – subject to the ferry carrying capability.

Will they fit through tunnels and over bridges?

Heavier trucks will be no higher or wider than existing trucks. Some bridges and tunnels already have height and/or weight restrictions and these will continue to apply. 

However many bridges on State highways and local roads are already adequate for heavier trucks. In the longer term other bridges could be strengthened, replaced or closed to heavier trucks.


Who is responsible for approving permits?

Local road controlling authorities are responsible for approving permits for overweight or high productivity vehicles within their jurisdictions. However, for permits over 53 tonnes the operator will also need an over dimension permit from the NZTA to ensure the safe operation of any longer vehicles. The NZTA is responsible for any vehicles on State highways. 

The majority of permits will be for vehicles less than 53 tonnes.  It is expected that there will be few permits over this weight and that these will be in very specific circumstances.

When will permits be able to be applied for?

From 1 May 2010.

How many permits are expected to be applied for?

This won’t be known until applications are received.

How will applying for a permit work?

NZTA is extending its existing overweight permit (Opermit) system for the new axle and weight criteria and for the new HPV permit applications, this avoids the need to design and implement a new permit system.

What will happen to the present system of overweight permits?

The existing overweight system will continue to be used for multiple trips and time periods for indivisible loads. The new system will be used to permit multiple and ongoing trips by nominated trucks carrying divisible or ordinary loads on specific routes.

Will this mean an immediate increase in heavier vehicles on our roads?

While permits will be able to be applied for from 1 May.   Implementing the permit system will take some time as routes are assessed for infrastructure capability and approval procedures are followed. The number of vehicles carrying heavier loads is therefore expected to come on stream progressively during the coming months.

What happens if infrastructure on a route applied for cannot support the increased weights?

The permit will not be approved.  An assessment as to whether it is cost effective to upgrade the infrastructure will be done before any decisions are made.



Last updated: 24 August 2014