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Transport service licences

Drivers and operators of freight, vehicle recovery and passenger transport services industries are required to comply with a range of rules and regulations. In most cases this includes holding an appropriate transport service licence.

These regulations and rules assist transport service licence holders to run successful and compliant businesses while ensuring safe management practices and protecting other road users.

Who needs a transport service licence?

Whether you're an individual or a company, you must hold the appropriate transport service licence (TSL) if you're operating:

There are different kinds of TSLs for each type of service.

A small passenger service

A small passenger service (SPS) uses vehicles that carry 12 people or less (including the driver) to carry passengers. You need a small passenger service licence if you carry passengers for hire or reward.

Small passenger services include taxi and app-based services, shuttle services and private hire services. Dial-a-driver services
are also small passenger services but the customer vehicles used in these services are not passenger service vehicles.

More information about passenger service vehicles

A large passenger service

A large passenger service uses vehicles that are designed or adapted to carry more than 12 people (including the driver) to carry passengers.

You need a large passenger service licence regardless of whether or not you operate for hire or reward.

A goods service

A goods service delivers or carries goods, whether or not for hire or reward, using a motor vehicle that has a gross vehicle mass* of 6000kg or more, including one that is ‘on hire’ to carry goods.

*gross vehicle mass means the maximum safe operating mass for a vehicle (including the mass of any accessories, crew, passengers, or load) that is derived from the design, capabilities, and capacities of the vehicle’s construction, systems, and components, and that:

(a) is determined by:

(i) the Transport Agency; or

(ii) the manufacturer of the vehicle; or

(iii) if the vehicle is modified after manufacture, a certifier approved by the Transport Agency; and

(b) may be recorded in kilograms on the register of motor vehicles.

A vehicle recovery service

A vehicle recovery service tows or carries vehicles. It requires a transport service licence if it isn’t exempt under the Land Transport Act (eg you don’t need a transport service licence to tow a friend’s car with your own in the case of a breakdown).

A rental service

A rental service hires out vehicles to carry goods or passengers.

Penalties for operating an unlicensed service

It's illegal to operate an unlicensed transport service of the kinds listed above. If you're convicted, you may face a fine of up to $10,000. The fine increases to a maximum of $25,000 for subsequent convictions.

In addition to the fine, the court may impound vehicles used in an unlicensed service for up to 90 days (no matter who owns them).

How to apply for a TSL

Fill out an application form

You'll need to fill out and submit an application form. Read the requirements detailed in the application pack carefully before you submit your application. 

Download an application form for a transport service licence

How to submit the application

Post your completed application form and all the required documentation and information over the page to:

Licensing Assessments Team
NZ Transport Agency
Private Bag 11777
Palmerston North 4442

What do I have to provide?

You need to provide:

  • a completed Application for transport service licence (TL01) application form

  • a completed Personal details supporting an application for transport service licence (TL02) form for each person that will be in control of the service

  • the application fee of $449.80

  • the police vetting fee of $9.70 for each person that will be in control of the service

  • a Certificate of knowledge of law and practice relevant to the transport licence you’re applying for (unless you’re going to operate an SPS or rental service)

  • a Certificate of incorporation and list of directors (if the application is for a company or other incorporated body)

  • a certified copy of your passport or birth certificate (if you don’t hold a New Zealand driver licence)

  • a certified copy of your passport and immigration status (if you weren’t born in New Zealand)

  • a list of the registration numbers of the vehicles that will be used in the proposed service.

New Zealand representative for small passenger service

Where none of the people who will be in control of a small passenger service live in New Zealand, you must provide the name and address of a representative living in New Zealand. This representative is authorised by you to:

  • engage with the Transport Agency on matters relating to your compliance with the relevant requirements of the Land Transport Act 1998 and all regulations and rules, and

  • accept service of legal documents on your behalf.

The New Zealand representative will also need to complete a TL02 form and be vetted to check they are a fit and proper person.

What is the criteria for approval?

Any person that will hold the licence or will be in control of the transport service must complete a personal details form and will have to meet the legal fit and proper person criteria.

What is the vetting fee for?

The Transport Agency is legally obliged to ensure that holders of transport service licences are ‘fit and proper’ people. Some of the factors which may be taken into account when determining if you meet the fit and proper person criteria are:

  • criminal conviction history, including charges or convictions relating to violent or sexual offences

  • drug or firearm offences, or offences involving organised criminal activity

  • any transport-related offending, especially offences relating to safety

  • any history of behavioural problems

  • any past complaints about a transport service provided by the person

  • any history of persistent failure to pay fines for transport-related offences.

The Transport Agency may also take into account any other relevant matter which they consider is in the public interest when determining your fitness to hold any licence.

TSL label

The Land Transport Rule: Operator Licensing 2017 requires all vehicles operating under a transport service licence to display a TSL label (except for dial-a-driver and facilitated cost-sharing passenger services).

TSL labels are required so that operators who rent, lease, borrow or share vehicles can move their details easily between vehicles. The labels also allow a passenger or enforcement officer to identify the licence the service is working under.

Find out more about TSL labels

Certificate of knowledge of law and practice

One of the requirements for getting a transport service licence (except for a small passenger service licence or rental service licence) is that either the licence holder or a person in control of the service needs to hold a certificate of knowledge of law and practice.

This shows that the holder of the certificate has the required knowledge of the laws and practices relating to the safe, efficient and proper operation of a transport service.

How do I get the certificate?

To get a certificate of knowledge of law and practice, you have to pass a test run by Aspeq (external link)

The test covers the rules relating to the type of service you will be operating and specific knowledge relating to the requirements and responsibilities of a transport service licence holder. There is an individual handbook for each class of service. TSL handbooks are available from our regional offices.

What are the costs?

Handbook and testCurrent price as at 1 January 2017 (incl. GST)
TSL handbook – Knowledge of law and practice (includes postage & packaging) $50.50
Goods, large passenger or vehicle recovery
exam
$108.00
Optional extras
Reader assisted $479.50
On-demand examination $379.50
Interpreter exam $900.50

Who might be exempt from holding a certificate?

The requirement to obtain and hold a certificate of knowledge of law and practice doesn’t apply to operators of small passenger services and rental services. However, you must still hold the appropriate transport service licence.

In special circumstances, the Transport Agency may waive the requirement for other transport service operators to hold the certificate where the service is limited or infrequent. An example is a truck that’s used to carry apples in the picking season, but that only carries bits and pieces around the orchard for most of the year. Generally, exemptions are granted for operators who are carrying their own goods and not for hire or reward.

The application form for an exemption is available by calling us 0800 822 422. Complete the exemption application form when you apply for your transport service licence.

About the tests

The Aspeq website has information on the test, including sample test questions.

The test questions are based on the Knowledge of law and practice handbook. You can buy the handbook online from Aspeq.

The test, which is computer based, is ‘open book’, which means you may take the handbook into the test with you. Handbooks are not supplied by Aspeq at the test venue. 

An example of how the computer based test works can be found on the Aspeq website.

You have up to two-and-a-half hours to complete the test and you must score 80 percent or higher to pass the test.

Test standards are set and audited by the Transport Agency.

Visit the Aspeq website (external link)

What identification do I need to bring to the tests?

On the day of the test, you'll need to show identification that has both your photograph and signature on it (eg your driver licence or passport). If you don't present acceptable identification, you won't be able to sit the test.

When does the test take place?

Aspeq has timetables for when the test takes place in different areas. These are available on the Aspeq website (external link) .

Aspeq also offers an 'on demand' option, which reduces the waiting period but costs more.

How do I apply to sit the tests?

You can book your exam up to 24 hours before the exam starts, subject to availability.

Existing candidates who have a current ASL/Aspeq client number

Go to the Aspeq website (external link)  and click on 'Log On'. Enter your username and password and follow the prompts. Then click on Book Exam on the left hand side menu.

If it is your first time with ASL

Go to the ASL website (external link)  and click 'Register.' Follow the prompts to either order your exam electronically or download the ASL417 form and post it together with payment (cheque made out to Assessment Systems Ltd) to the Aspeq offices at:

Assessment Systems Ltd
PO Box 30343
Lower Hutt

If your application is incomplete, Aspeq may return the form to you for completion. If your application is not received in time for the exam booking to proceed, you may be booked in to the next available session.

For information on transfers to different test dates, cancellations or refunds refer to the Aspeq website (external link) .

Download Factsheet 47 – Transport service licences [PDF, 58 KB]

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