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Running a vehicle recovery business

Starting up a new truck business – whether you intend operating one truck or many – is a major decision that should be based on quality advice and information.

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 talk to our contact centre for advice on the vehicle use rules and regulations with which you must comply.

Contact us

Getting a transport service licence

In most situations you'll need a goods service licence to operate a vehicle recovery business.

You must also ensure that transport service licence labels are displayed in all tow trucks you operate, either as close as practical to the bottom inside of the windscreen on the passenger's side, or in the window behind the passenger seat.

Find out how to get a transport service licence
More information about transport service licence labels

Understanding the Operator Licensing Rule

Section 5 of the Operator Licensing Rule specifies the minimum legal standards and requirements you must meet in operating a vehicle recovery business.

Read the Operator Licensing Rule

Meeting vehicle requirements

Your vehicles must meet higher safety standards before you can operate them in a licensed transport service. These include registration and annual licensing requirements and routine certificate of fitness inspections. Your vehicles 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 about registration and annual licensing requirements
More about choosing a safe vehicle

Vehicle classes

All vehicles are defined by class, with standards applying to each class.

More information about vehicle classes and standards

Choosing your vehicles

To help you choose tow trucks that are suitable for the type of service you expect them to provide, we've developed a heavy vehicle selection guide.

Read the Heavy vehicle selection guide

Operating your vehicles safely

It's important that you maintain your tow trucks in a safe and serviceable condition at all times.

Attending  to faults straight away will keep you in business and save you money in the long term – and it will help you to achieve consistently good Operator Rating System (ORS) scores.

For more information on maintaining your trucks in a safe and compliant condition, check out:

More information about the Operator Rating System (ORS)

Loading vehicles safely

Incorrect loading practices can contribute to truck and trailer rollovers and loads falling off vehicles.

All trucks should be designed and operated so that loads can be restrained. The minimum standard for load restraint is the Truck loading code.

Truck loading code [PDF, 8.4 MB]
Safe loading of heavy vehicles
Preventing heavy vehicle rollover

Road user charges

Road user charges apply to:

  • all vehicles with a manufacturers’ gross laden weight of more than 3500kg or over, and
  • all vehicles powered by a fuel not taxed at source, such as diesel.

Find out more about road user charges

Driver requirements

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 V endorsement. 

More about driver licences
More about V 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)

The 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.

Find out more about the chain of responsibility

If you need more help

Contact us for advice on and help with complying with all transport-related rules, regulations, and vehicle standards and requirements.