You need to hold a Small Passenger Service Licence (SPSL) if:

  • you operate a taxi, dial-a-driver, shuttle or private hire vehicle(s), or
  • you facilitate a service that connects drivers with passengers by electronic or any other means (excluding answering or call centre services), or
  • you operate a third party facilitated cost-sharing service, 

and your vehicle(s) has 12 seats or less (including the driver). Drivers for the above services must operate under someone who holds a SPSL or hold a SPSL themselves.

There are exceptions to the requirement to hold a SPSL for some operators, such as council-run carpooling schemes – more information on this follows in the table below.

If your vehicle (or vehicles) seats more than 13 people you need to hold a Large Passenger Service Licence. The information below is primarily about the changes for small passenger services.

Large Passenger Service Licence

Since 1 October 2017 there have been revised responsibilities for you and your drivers, because of changes to legislation and changes in three related rules.

Revised responsibilities for you and your drivers

Land Transport Amendment Act 2017(external link)

Key changes include:

  • Approved Taxi Organisations (ATOs) no longer exist as regulated entities – see the second item in the table below for more information
  • changes to the requirements around in-vehicle security cameras (except for third-party facilitated cost-sharing or dial-a-driver services and a range of specialist pre-booked services listed in the Operator Licensing Rule 2017) – see the information at the bottom of what you need to know as an operator/facilitator section of the table below for more information.

In-vehicle security cameras

Getting a new Small Passenger Service Licence

The Small Passenger Service Licence replaces the previous Passenger Service License (PSL). If you previously held a PSL, we automatically issued you with both a new Small Passenger Service Licence (SPSL) and Large Passenger Service Licence at no cost.

If you did not hold a PSL at 1 October 2017, you need to apply for a SPSL. You do not need to hold a Certificate of Knowledge of Law & Practice in order to be granted a SPSL.

For businesses previously operating a service model without a PSL, there was a transition period of 28 days from 1 October 2017 to enable you to apply for and receive a SPSL.

Legally providing a small passenger service

A small passenger service (SPS) uses passenger service vehicles that carry 12 people or less (including the driver). If you provide a small passenger service, please familiarise yourself with the key information in the table below to ensure you are operating legally.

We also encourage you to keep safety top of mind for passengers, drivers and vehicles. Consider the working environment you operate in and the mandatory and optional safety elements you incorporate when making business decisions. 

Running a passenger service

What you need to know as an operator/facilitator

There is a single class of licence called a Small Passenger Service Licence for vehicles of 12 seats or less, including the driver. There is no regulated distinction between service categories (currently referred to as taxis, shuttles, private hire, dial-a-driver services).

Approved Taxi Organisations (ATOs) no longer exist as regulated entities. The previous requirements of ATOs are revoked and all operators must meet a number of obligations set out in detail in the related rule.

Land Transport Rule: Operator Licensing 2017

You must hold a Small Passenger Service Licence (SPSL). Licence holders may be both an operator of a SPS and a driver.

Vehicles operating under your licence must display the relevant transport licence card (commonly referred to as a label) unless it’s a vehicle in a facilitated cost-sharing arrangement, or services such as dial-a-driver.

You and anyone else in control must be, and continue to be, deemed a ‘fit and proper person’ to be granted and hold an SPSL. The fit and proper requirement also applies to the New Zealand representative(s) of a person in control based overseas.

Fit and proper person

In the case of an application for a small passenger service licence where no person in control lives in New Zealand, under the Land Transport Act 1998 you are required to identify a representative of your service that lives in New Zealand. You must provide the full name and address of that representative. A representative is defined as an agent who is authorised to engage with the Transport Agency on matters relating to the operator’s compliance with the relevant legislation and who is also authorised to accept service of legal documents on behalf of the operator.

You must maintain evidential records that:

  • all your drivers have a passenger endorsement, a current identification card and are complying with work time and logbook requirements, such as correctly completing their log book
  • any vehicle operating under your SPSL has a current Certificate of Fitness.
Signage on SPS vehicles (such as the company name or brand), including Braille, is allowed but is not mandatory.

If any of your drivers use time/distance measuring devices (such as a meter), you must ensure the device is accurate. We recommend you have it regularly checked and keep a record of these checks.

You must advise the Transport Agency of any serious improper behaviour (this includes, without limitation, violence, assault, sexual offences, and driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs) of anyone driving for you, or on behalf of/in connection with the service you offer.

Passengers can lodge complaints to you and you must keep a record of these for at least two years. Your records must be available for inspection when requested by an enforcement officer for any audit or investigation.

If required, you must assist the Transport Agency and NZ Police in investigations and audits.

There is no requirement to offer a 24/7 service – this is your choice as a SPS provider.

If your service operates in an urban area listed in the Operator Licensing Rule 2017 you are required to either have an in-vehicle camera or to only provide services to registered passengers. Exceptions to this requirement are listed in the Operator Licensing Rule 2017. If you do have cameras installed in your SPS vehicles you must meet the requirements of in-vehicle camera systems in the rule. Learn more about in-vehicle camera and registered passenger requirements.

Urban area

Operator Licensing Rule 2017

In-vehicle camera and registered passenger requirements

Dial-a-driver operator

You must hold a Small Passenger Service Licence (SPSL). You may be both a provider of a small passenger service and a driver.

As vehicles operating under your SPSL are used to transport the driver and are not used to carry passengers, they do not require a Certificate of Fitness (CoF). A CoF is also not required for a vehicle provided by a passenger.

All of your drivers who drive customers’ cars must have a small passenger endorsement and display a driver identification card in a clearly visible position to a front seat passenger (such as on a lanyard worn around their neck or pinned to a jacket).

Facilitated cost-sharing

A facilitated cost-sharing service is one where a third party arranges contact between people interested in carpooling. The service can charge a fee, and drivers are reimbursed at a cost-sharing rate set by the Minister of Transport that reflects journey fuel costs and vehicle wear and tear. Drivers cannot be reimbursed for their time.

You must hold a Small Passenger Service Licence. However, given the nature of these services, drivers do not need to have a passenger endorsement, display an identification card or meet work time requirements. Vehicles do not need a CoF and are exempted from the requirement to have an in-vehicle camera.

Payments to your drivers must be within the cost-sharing rate set by the Minister of Transport.
Traditional carpooling, such as arrangements between friends or neighbours to share transport, and carpooling organised by local authorities are exempted from these requirements.

You must maintain 12 months records of:

  • payments to the driver
  • payment made by passengers to the facilitator
  • distance travelled in each trip

Records must be provided to NZ Transport Agency on request.

Helpful information

This printable guide pulls together all the relevant information in one place. 

Small passenger services guide

These resources are consistent with the legislation and relevant rules, which you can also refer to: