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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.

Transport service licence labels must also be displayed in all buses, taxis and shuttles, 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 Operator Licensing Rule specifies the legal standards and requirements you must meet to operate a passenger service business.

In includes information for operators of:

  • small passenger service vehicles (section 3)
  • taxi services (section 4)
  • shuttle services (section 5)
  • private hire services (section 6)
  • large passenger service vehicles and dial-a-driver services (section 11).

Not sure which passenger service you come under? Call our contact centre.

Read the Operator Licensing Rule 2007

Vehicle requirements

Your vehicle 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

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

Road user charges

You will 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

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. 

More about driver licences
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

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)

Ensuring workplace safety

Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, a work-related vehicle is considered part of the workplace. This means that the health and safety rules applying to the workplace also apply to work-related motor vehicles.

Read a guide to the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (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.

Developing a safe driving policy

Every dent, prang, speeding ticket or collision involving your vehicles will affect your business’s financial bottom line. So it makes sense to encourage safe driving – and potentially save lives – by making it an integral part of your business policy.

Find out how to develop a safe driving policy

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

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.