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About the Operator Rating System (ORS)

What is the ORS?

The ORS is a system that aims to improve the safety of heavy vehicles on our roads, by rating transport operators on their compliance with safety legislation.

For more information, read What is the ORS?

Why do we need an ORS?

The commercial road transport sector is very competitive. Non-compliant operators can undermine regulatory and safety performance when they are making decisions about maximising loads, delivery deadlines and maintenance costs. Without effective enforcement, those who operate within the law face unfair economic pressure from operators who do not comply.

It is one of the tools that the NZ Transport Agency and the New Zealand Police use to identify potentially higher-risk operators for further investigation and assistance to improve their safety practices, and for auditing and targeting purposes.

The ORS encourages a level playing field for operators by improving their regulatory compliance and safety record. It encourages poor operators to lift their performance and provides better operators with the opportunity to market their good business practices and safety record.

For more information, read Benefits of the ORS

What is the legal basis for the ORS?

The Land Transport Rule: Operator Safety Rating 2008 (ORS Rule) sets out the key aspects of the ORS and how the system should work. Section 158(b)(vii) of the Land Transport Act 1998 provides for the Minister of Transport to make a rule of this nature. The rule will take effect once it is gazetted.

Read the Land Transport Rule: Operator Safety Rating 2008

I've put a lot of effort into being a five-star operator with the expectation that I might see some reward. There's no opportunity for this at the moment – when am I going to get some benefits?

The Transport Agency aims to use the ORS as one of the primary tools for monitoring the performance of transport service licence holders operating heavy commercial vehicles.

If you're a five-star operator you will already be seeing the benefits of running a safe business and may wish to use your good rating in your marketing. You should be seeing a better bottom line through reduced long-term vehicle costs, and fewer fines and offences.

For more information, read Benefits of the ORS

How much has the ORS cost?

The ORS is estimated to reduce the social costs of at-fault heavy vehicle crashes by about six percent per year by 2021 (as identified in Safer Journeys – the government's strategy for road safety, 2010–2020).

Read Safer Journeys (external link)

The system has cost $5.3 million to develop. These costs are directly attributed to establishing the ORS system to produce the ratings, so these costs depreciate each year.

How do I find out more information about the ORS?

If you cannot find the answer to your question on this website or would like to know more, please e-mail ors@nzta.govt.nz or contact one of your transport officers in your nearest Transport Agency office.

Find a Transport Agency regional office

ORS ratings

Who gets rated?

You are rated on your compliance with safety-based legislation if you have at least one certificate of fitness (CoF) in a 24-month rating period and are a:

  • goods service licence holder with a vehicle of 6000kg or over
  • vehicle recovery service operator
  • passenger service licence holder with a motor vehicle with more than 12 seats or a heavy motor vehicle with more than nine seats.

For more information, read What is the ORS?

I’m a landscape gardener, why am I rated? And why should I care what my rating is?

If you hold a transport service licence and are linked to a heavy vehicle, you will receive a rating. The ORS is about reducing truck crashes and making journeys safer for all.

What do the ratings look like?

The ratings are similar to hotel or restaurant ratings, with stars being allocated based on performance.

RatingDefinitionOverall score range
5 Very good level of compliance 0–0.4999
4 Good level of compliance 0.5000–2.1041
3 Unsatisfactory level of compliance 2.1042–3.7082
2 Very unsatisfactory level of compliance 3.7083–5.3124
1 Extremely unsatisfactory level of compliance 5.3125 or higher

What information are the ratings based on?

ORS ratings are based on three types of safety-related events over a 24-month period:

  • certificate of fitness (CoF) inspections
  • roadside inspections
  • relevant traffic offences and infringements.

For more information, read How the ORS is calculated

Why aren’t crashes included in the rating?

When a crash occurs, the police will attend, and after assessing the scene and talking to witnesses they will record details of how they believe the crash occurred, including assigning fault for the crash. However, at this stage fault or guilt has not been attributed through the justice process, and it's unfair to use this in the rating.

If a driver or operator's actions are believed to have caused a crash, an offence notice will be issued and the driver or operator can then defend the charge in court. If the outcome is that the driver or operator is found guilty, this will be included in the rating and reflect their liability for the crash.

How are the ratings calculated?

Read How the ORS is calculated

How were the event scores assigned?

Read How the ORS is calculated

How are the ratings going to be used?

The ratings are being used by the Transport Agency and the NZ Police as one of the tools to identify potentially higher-risk operators for further investigation and assistance to improve their safety practices.

We still work with high-performing operators to ensure they are remaining compliant, but they are likely to receive less attention.

Operators can use the rating information to see where they need to improve their performance and increase their driving safety and/or vehicle maintenance. They can also publicise their ratings and use it in marketing to promote themselves as safe operators.

When it comes to work on New Zealand's state highways, the Transport Agency now is requiring its contractors to have a certain minimum standard ORS rating. We are also encouraging other government agencies and councils to do the same. Other organisations such as finance and insurance companies have indicated that, over time, they will be interested in an operator's rating when it comes to setting fees and levies.

When did information start being collected?

The Transport Agency started collecting information on which to base ratings on 1 July 2010.

When did the system come into effect?

The Transport Agency has been collating data since July 2010 and have released provisional ratings on a six-monthly basis ever since. Once the Land Transport Rule Operator Safety Rating 2008 is gazetted, ratings will be based on 24 months of data and will be revised every six months.

What sort of offences will be included in the rating?

Offences that are a risk to safety are included in the rating.

Find out more about offence scores in How the ORS is calculated

Are road user charges (RUC) offences included?

No, as not paying RUC is not a direct safety issue.

Read a list of included offences

Why are my ratings affected by the behaviour of my drivers?

Ensuring businesses take responsibility for their employees is an important aspect of creating a workplace safety culture. The people who own and manage businesses have a lot of influence over the workplace culture and the behaviour of their staff. Under the ORS there is an expectation that operators will encourage safe driving, and not facilitate or tolerate driver offending, and this will be reflected through their rating.

What can operators and drivers do to improve their safety and get a good rating?

Read How to get the best possible ORS rating

Why has my rating gone down?

An operator's rating may go down for a number of reasons. One of the vehicles linked to your transport service licence could have had a failed CoF, a fault may have been found during a roadside inspection, or one of your drivers may have had an offence or infringement. If you would like to discuss your rating and why it may have gone down, please contact your local Transport Agency office and talk to one of our transport officers.

Find a Transport Agency regional office

A failed CoF, a fault at a roadside inspection or an infringement or offence will impact my rating. How do I know the weighting of these types of events?

Each event that goes into an operator's rating has a weighting. As a general rule of thumb, offences have a greater impact on your rating than a failed roadside inspection or a failed CoF, and the more unsafe the offence or fault, the greater the impact.

For more information, read How the ORS is calculated

My rating seems to be skewed easily by one event – why does this happen?

A smaller-scale operator may find their rating changes with one event. This is due to the weighting that is put on some types of events. For example, an offence has a greater weighting than a failed CoF, and a fault with a vehicle's brakes has a greater weighting that an obscured rear reflector.

However, the algorithm that calculates ORS ratings takes into account different fleet sizes to ensure there is a fair outcome for large and small fleets.

For more information on event ratings, see How the ORS is calculated

Big companies that use owner drivers seem to be at an advantage – is this true?

The algorithm takes into account different fleet sizes to ensure there is a fair outcome for both large and small fleets. Regardless of fleet size, if you have a good level of compliance you can use your high ORS star rating to promote your business.

Why are my vehicles stopped by the roadside all the time but other operators aren't stopped at all?

The NZ Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU), in conjunction with Transport Agency staff, runs roadside stops throughout New Zealand. These are held anywhere, anytime. As a result, some operators may find themselves stopped at the roadside more often than others. Roadside stop locations and times can be and will be varied, so those operators that have not been stopped may find themselves being stopped in the future. Information provided by the ORS system will enable a balance between targeted stops and a fair cross-section of random roadside stops.

ORS rating publication

Why has publication of ORS ratings been delayed?

The Transport Agency originally intended to publish ORS ratings in 2012. In early 2012 the Transport Agency decided to take more time to refine the ORS to ensure its benefits were maximised. This decision was made in consultation with the industry (including the Ministry of Transport, the New Zealand Police, the Bus and Coach Association, and the Road Transport Forum).

More recently, the Transport Agency has decided not to develop a website for the sole purpose of publishing ORS ratings. The ORS is being used to assess how the entire sector is performing, not just operators, so the decision has been to consider publishing in the wider context of giving best effect for the whole sector.

How will operators find out what their rating is?

We will write to transport service operators every six months to let you know what your proposed rating is and how we calculated it.

For more information, read ORS ratings notification

How and where are the ratings published?

Currently, we notify transport operators of their own ORS rating. We are not publishing the ratings publicly.

For more information, read ORS ratings notification

Rating errors and omissions

What if errors are made with the rating information?

We will welcome feedback on any errors or omissions found in your rating, so that these can be reviewed as soon as possible and corrected if necessary.

For more information, read Querying an event or your ORS rating

Can operators appeal a rating?

Yes, if you believe we've made an error or omission in your proposed ORS rating, you can apply to have it reassessed.

For more information, read Querying an event or your ORS rating

Safety-related events

It is difficult to make a valid complaint about a CoF or roadside result without being targeted in the future for being a trouble maker.

If you have a concern over a particular event or issue, there are issue resolution processes you can follow. 

For more information, read Querying an event or your ORS rating

Why does an event in my rating show a different description from the one on my CoF report?

Sometimes the descriptions of faults found at a testing station differ a little to what is entered into the ORS system. As long as the fault code is the same, the fault has been entered correctly.

If you have any concerns, please contact the Errors and Omissions team at ors@nzta.govt.nz or 0800 108 809 to discuss.

If you are focusing on safety, why does failure to display a TSL label have so many points attached to it?

Displaying a transport service licence (TSL) enables CoF agents, the CVIU and the Transport Agency to link an event to an operator. Failing to display a TSL label has been ranked highly on potential safety-risk scores as the TSL provides a unique identifier to link events to an specific operator.

My vehicle passed its CoF, then a day or two later failed a roadside inspection. How can this be right?

It's important to note that a CoF is not a guarantee of a roadworthy vehicle other than when the vehicle is being tested. It is possible that a vehicle could pass its CoF inspection then, a short time later, fail a roadside inspection. It is always a good idea to do a walk-around of your vehicle before every trip to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy.

What if I have a brand new vehicle that fails its initial CoF? Does this go against me?

An ORS rating will not be affected if a brand new vehicle fails an initial CoF inspection. However, the system does not automatically exclude the CoF inspection failure, so it's important you contact our Errors and Omissions team on ors@nzta.govt.nz or 0800 108 809 as soon as you can. The CoF inspection needs to be manually removed from an operator's rating. You will need to show evidence that the New Zealand agent for your vehicle has repaired the fault under warranty.

My vehicle has only recently passed a CoF check, but I've just had a roadside inspection that's failed my brakes. Why do the brake test machines give different results?

The testing, protocols and safety requirements of vehicles and their components at both CoF and roadside inspection are the same, but it's important to note that the testing environment is different. Vehicles must be safe for both environments.

In the testing station a vehicle undergoes its inspection in a controlled environment where, for example, the load for brake testing is pre-determined and known. On the road, the vehicle may have a different load for each trip and can fail a roadside brake test if the brakes are not working effectively with the particular load being carried. Other factors can also influence the outcome of roadside testing, including the environment (eg if it's wet, hot or dusty) and nature of previous work (eg, city or long haul). A well-serviced vehicle will continue to pass in all environments.

The Transport Agency has developed two brake test information sheets that may assist you and/or your service provider in maintaining your vehicle's brakes.

Read How to reduce the occurrences of brake failure during roller brake testing [PDF, 672 KB] 
Find out about the differences between brake test environments and how these may impact on a brake test result [PDF, 1.1 MB]

I’m renting a heavy vehicle, but the vehicle’s owner is managing the maintenance and servicing of the vehicle. Whose TSL should be used for events relating to this vehicle?

As the operator using this vehicle on a day-to-day basis, ultimately you are responsible for maintenance of the vehicle, regardless of whether it is rented or not. The onus is on you, the operator, to make sure the vehicle is roadworthy at all times. Because of this, your TSL should be used for events relating to this vehicle. This also ensures the number of vehicle kilometres travelled can be attributed to your TSL, so weights of events against your TSL can be correctly calculated.

I have multiple vehicles run under multiple TSLs. Some of the events have been attributed to the wrong TSL. Can I get these corrected?

It is possible to reassign events to other TSLs in some cases. In some instances, particularly for offences where a fine has already been paid, we cannot amend TSL details.

For more information, read Querying an event or your ORS rating

Why have all speeding offences been given the same weighting?

Speeding offences are not given different weightings as it is considered all instances of speeding are breaking the law.

Does the ORS differentiate between faults found at the roadside as part of a Level 3 inspection versus those faults found as part of a Level 5 or 6 inspection?

No, a fault is a fault, and an operator's vehicle should pass all levels of inspection when they are stopped at the roadside.

Find out about different levels of inspection in the HMV categorisation of defects handbook [PDF, 1.4 MB]

How are offences treated by the ORS algorithm?

Offence data is weighted by the 'exposure' (or distance travelled). This is to account for the amount of time each vehicle in a fleet spends on the road, and therefore the risk of an operator's drivers committing an offence.

How does the transport agency calculate how many kilometres my vehicle has travelled in a year – ie, vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT)?

The Transport Agency calculates VKT to use when it comes to weighting an operator's offences. This is to account for the amount of time each vehicle in a fleet spends on the road and therefore the risk of an operator's drivers committing an offence.

VKT is collected from a vehicle's hubodometer reading recorded at CoF inspections during the rating period, including the most recent CoF before the start of the period. From this information, the average monthly road usage between CoF inspections is calculated for each prime mover vehicle in an operator's fleet. These are then added together to give the operator's total VKT for the month. A VKT value is calculated for every month in the rating period.

It is worth noting that the ORS algorithm includes any vehicle operating with the operator's TSL – they do not necessarily need to own it (just be responsible for operating it).

What about the results of a targeted operation? Are they included in my rating?

No. There will be times where the Transport Agency and NZ Police CVIU staff run operations focusing on a specific range of transport operators to address a particular issue in the industry. When this type of operation is run, either on the roadside or within an operator's premises, the results of these activities will not be recorded in the ORS.

What if one testing station is consistently finding more faults than other testing stations?

The ORS is a performance tool for the whole of the heavy vehicle sector. Information from the ORS will act as an audit system to report on agent performance as well as that of operators, the Transport Agency and the CVIU.

What is the role of maintenance inspections, provided by CoF agents over and above the CoF regime, in the ORS?

Maintenance inspections provide a valuable role in road safety. Operators who choose to have their vehicles safety checked outside of their required CoF frequency are helping to make journeys safer for all. Maintenance inspections and CoF inspections must be conducted separately to ensure the CoF inspection meets audit standards.

My vehicle failed the first CoF examination and has to go back for a re-check. Will the results from the re-check count towards my ORS score?

Yes. The ORS counts each CoF inspection as a separate event.

The ORS and the Fleet Safety Programme

How does the ORS fit with the Fleet Safety Programme?

The ORS is a system for heavy vehicle operators that aims to improve the safety of heavy vehicles on our roads. It works by encouraging transport operators to make their vehicles and driving practices as safe as possible and provides incentives to operators to comply with their regulatory obligations that contribute to safety.

The ORS specifically covers goods service licence holders with a vehicle of 6000kg or over, vehicle recovery service operators, and passenger service licence holders with a motor vehicle with more than 12 seats or a heavy motor vehicle with more than nine seats. It provides heavy vehicle operators with a rating based on how they've been assessed in safety-related events, such as CoFs, roadside inspections and relevant traffic offences.

The Fleet Safety Programme is a voluntary programme for all employers who manage a fleet of five or more vehicles, regardless of the size of the vehicles. It identifies businesses with a high on-road health and safety risk (based on offence and infringement information) and then works with employers and fleet managers to reduce that risk, including providing advice and ideas from local teams from the four partner agencies.

Visit the Fleet Safety programme website (external link)

Aren’t the ORS and Fleet Safety Programme measuring the same things?

No. While both the ORS and the Fleet Safety Programme use offence data, this data is used in different ways.


Where an employer is signed up to the Fleet Safety Programme, all offences and infringements committed by drivers in vehicles registered to that company are considered. This includes offences and infringements that are still pending. In signing up for the programme, employers must confirm that they have the permission of their drivers to receive their offence or infringement data.

The ORS only takes offence information where a driver has admitted guilt or been found guilty, and not crashes or incidents that are still pending, as fault has not yet been decided by the justice system. The ORS also uses the results from certificate of fitness and roadside inspections.

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