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Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002 (Revoked 1 February 2017)

(Revoked: 1 February 2017)

(See Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2016)

The rule covers requirements for dimension and mass limits to enable vehicles, in particular, heavy truck and trailer combinations, to be operated safely on New Zealand’s roads.

About the rule

The rule is available in consolidated format (ie, a full, up-to-date, version of the rule including all its amendments) or as the original, unamended rule with separate amendment rules. Choose the option that best suits your needs from the list below.

To access the consolidated version of the rule (available only in PDF format), click on ‘Consolidation’ below.

The electronic versions of legislation on this website, and any legislation printed from the website:

  • have no official status
  • are made available for information only and should not be relied on as the authoritative text.

About the questions and answers

Questions and answers are provided to accompany a new rule or amendment rule when it is signed. These versions of the questions and answers are not updated to take into account any later amendments to the rule and are retained for historic interest only.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Rules Team by emailing

Land Transport Rules

Questions & answers

Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule 2014

What is this Rule?

The Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Amendment 2014 (the amendment Rule) has been signed into law by Hon Michael Woodhouse, the Associate Minister of Transport. This Rule makes changes to the principal Rule: Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002 (the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass (VDAM) Rule).

What changes does the amendment Rule make to the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule?

The amendment Rule changes the overweight vehicle and high-productivity motor vehicle permit systems. The changes:

  • create two categories of permit conditions;
  • provide weighing tolerances for permitted vehicles; and
  • clarify other conditions under which permitted vehicles may operate.

The amendment Rule sets out circumstances where the permit has no effect (such as the vehicle operating outside an area described in the permit). The permit form has also been revised. The previous practice of ‘voiding’ a permit for any breach of a condition is discontinued, however, the power to revoke a permit remains.

The changes will be supported by changes to the Land Transport (Offences and Penalties) Regulations 1999 (the Offences Regulations) which:

  • create graduated offences, with appropriate penalties, for breaches by permit holders; and
  • increase the levels of fines for overweight vehicles that do not have a permit.

What concerns have been addressed in the changes?

The previous regulatory framework created situations where permit holders incurred very high penalties for relatively minor breaches of permit conditions. Feedback from the road freight industry suggested that the risk of incurring these fines was discouraging the uptake of HPMV permits and therefore, the safety and efficiency benefits originally envisaged by their introduction in 2010.

Also, the previous regulatory framework didn’t provide an equivalent level of penalty for operators who operated illegally overweight. Illegal overloading creates significant costs for public infrastructure and can create a safety risk. The changes are designed to encourage safer, more productive choices and discourage illegal behaviour.

How will the new offences system work for a permit holder?

There are three sets of penalties, which align to the severity the offence:

  • If the permit is not valid (e.g. the vehicle is operating overweight off the approved route) then the vehicle will be treated as if no permit is held. For loads well in excess of the legal limits, this will continue to incur very high fines to recognise the safety and infrastructure risk of this breach of the law.
  • If a critical condition (see below) is breached, then a $2000 fine will be applied, along with fines for any additional offences.
  • If an additional condition is breached, then only a fine for that offence will be applied.

Does this mean that an operator holding a permit faces lower fines for overweight vehicles?

  • If an operator is caught operating in a situation where the permit is invalid, fines will be slightly higher than previously.
  • If a critical condition of a permit is breached, then the total fine will be significantly lower than previously, because the permit won’t be ‘voided’ (see below).
  • If an additional condition of the permit is breached, then the fine will only be for that breach (e.g. overweight on a single axle will only incur the fine set for the overload of that axle).

But the ‘voiding’ of permits will stop?

Yes. Previously, the permit issued to operators said that it was void if ANY condition was breached. For loads well over the standard weight limits, this may have meant very heavy fines for minor breaches that represented a lesser risk to infrastructure and safety. Once the amendment Rule comes into force, this wording on a permit form will have no effect.

What are the critical conditions?

  • Exceeding the gross weight stated on the permit.
  • Exceeding the design limits for the vehicle (such as its Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)).
  • Failure to meet bridge restrictions (load, speed, position) on route.

Why are bridge restrictions seen as critical?

Bridge restrictions only apply where the permit specifies that there are restrictions in place. These may be a limit on the allowable maximum weight of the vehicle crossing the bridge, or a requirement to reduce speed for crossing that structure. As a publicly-owned asset, bridges that have limited carrying capacity have to be protected from excess wear and, in some instances, structural damage from overweight vehicles.

What is the basis for setting penalties for a vehicle holding a permit?

The level of fine for overloading is set out in the Offences Regulations and increases proportionally as the recorded weight increases above the applicable maximum weight limit.

If the permit isn’t valid, then the weight limits set in the VDAM Rule will be applied (e.g. a maximum gross weight of 44 tonnes for most truck and trailer combinations).

If the permit is valid, then the weight limits to be applied by NZ Police are those stated on the permit form.

Is there a difference between indivisible overweight and HPMV permits in the way the new penalties will be applied?


Will the previous loading tolerances continue to apply?

Most tolerances haven’t changed, but there are some differences. The 1.5 tonne tolerance for vehicles operating at more than 33 tonnes without a permit remains. However, the previous 3 tonne tolerance for vehicles over 60 tonnes is removed. New tolerances of 500 kg, for steering axles and gross mass, and 1000 kg, for other load-sharing axle groups, will apply to all vehicles operating under an overweight indivisible load permit or a HPMV permit.

Why such tight margins for permitted vehicles?

Vehicles operating at weights above the general limit have to operate under tighter margins since they’re imposing higher demands on the infrastructure (roads and bridges). The changes reduce applicable penalties for offences, but the reduced tolerance makes it clear that permit holders are expected to meet higher standards in the interests of protecting publicly-owned infrastructure and safety.

What happens to vehicles not operating under a permit that are detected as over-weight?

The amendment to the Offences Regulations will increase fines. The ‘entry’ fine (e.g. less than 500 kg overweight on a single axle after tolerances have been applied) has increased from $150 to $350. The new fine scale then increases proportionally, but the top level fines remain unchanged.

Who will be directly affected by these changes?

There are two main groups who will be interested in the changes to the VDAM Rule and the Offences Regulations:

  • Freight operators, who can be classified as:
    • operators who don’t operate under a permit, and may (or may not) exceed the permitted weights under the Rule. They face limited increases in fines for overweight vehicles.
    • operators who move indivisible loads (such as heavy haulage, rural and forestry contractors, ISO containers). For these operators, splitting penalties into three categories means significantly reduced fines in most scenarios, and
    • operators who hold high-productivity motor vehicle (HPMV) permits (including their representative bodies such as the Road Transport Forum, Road Transport Associations, National Road Carriers), who are likely to see benefits from the improved regulatory clarity the Rule changes provide, along with the associated changes to the Regulations.
  • Road controlling authorities (local and unitary councils that manage a local road network and the Department of Conservation). For them, the changes:
    • encourage operators to operate more efficiently using HPMV permits, where these are considered suitable
    • provide clearer weight tolerances for operation under permits
    • provide greater disincentive to operators who operate illegally overloaded vehicles, which can create significant maintenance costs to the local road network.

When do these changes take effect?

A date for the changes to come into effect hasn’t been determined yet, but it’s likely to be in early 2015. The changes take effect on 8 July 2015. While the Rule has been signed, the changes also require an A related amendment to the Offences and Penalties Regulations will also come into force on this date. This is being prepared.

What if I hold a current permit when the changes take effect?

You can continue to use old permits until they expire, are revoked or replaced, but the new penalties apply from the date that the amendment Rule comes into effect.

Will the forms issued by road controlling authorities for overweight and HPMV permits change?

Yes, the changes to the VDAM Rule require new forms. However, the new Schedule 3 is largely modelled on permits currently in use. The main change is that the critical permit conditions have been specified, and the reference to the ‘voiding’ of a permit has been removed.

The previous permit form had been in place since 1976 (it was copied over from the heavy vehicle regulations) and it wasn’t meeting the needs of permitting vehicles for HPMV operation.

How quickly will forms have to change?

The amendment Rule states that ‘current’ permits can continue to be used until they expire, are revoked or replaced. So they don’t need to be replaced immediately. However, only new permit forms will be issued after the amendment Rule comes into effect.

How different are the new permit forms?

The new Schedule looks quite different from the old one, but road controlling authorities have been adding their own specific requirements to permit forms over the years, and the new forms reflect current practice. The Transport Agency will provide technical guidance and templates (both simple and complex) for using the new forms.

The new permit format does allow for some flexibility. For example, not all permits need to have detailed axle limit tables. The new forms are designed to put all the critical information that the operator of the vehicle and NZ Police need into a logical order.

How does this affect the ability of road controlling authorities to manage permits by setting conditions?

The amendment Rule continues the practice of allowing road controlling authorities (RCAs) to set appropriate conditions on permits. Under the changes, these are now described as ‘additional’ conditions. To ensure consistent application of the law across New Zealand, RCAs can’t add critical conditions to those set out in the amendment Rule.

Won’t these changes increase the volume of permits being sought?

Yes - this is the intention of the changes. It’s likely that this increase will continue the current trend of increased interest from industry in moving heavy road freight onto more efficient HPMVs. To help manage any increase, the Transport Agency is working with RCAs and the road freight industry to manage the transition.

Extent of consultation

Was the public consulted on the changes to the legislation relating to overweight and high-productivity motor vehicles?

The consultation document (including a draft of the amendment Rule) was released for public comment on 27 February 2014. Its availability was advertised in major daily newspapers and in the New Zealand Gazette. 1474 groups and individuals who registered their interest in the VDAM Rule were directly advised that the consultation document was available for comment. The Transport Agency received 16 submissions on the proposed changes, which were taken into consideration in finalising the draft Rule.

What issues were raised by submitters?

Groups representing freight operators noted that for permitted vehicles the 500 kg tolerance proposed for all axles didn’t take into account the effect on load-sharing axles. The tolerances now allow 1000 kg for those axle groups.
Road controlling authorities noted some discrepancies with the way the permit form, as proposed, laid out additional conditions. They also suggested that some items in the permit schedule should be removed – RCAs can add extra text if they want to, but this shouldn’t be set out as a requirement. These concerns have been addressed and the permit form is now simpler.

Does the amendment Rule give me all the information I need to fully understand the changes?

This is an amendment Rule, and, therefore, contains only the amending provisions. The amendment Rule should be read in conjunction with the principal Rule; Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002. 

How can I obtain a copy of the amendment Rule?

Final rules are available on our website.

A copy of the amendment Rule can be purchased from selected bookshops that sell legislation or from the Rule printers and distributors, Wickliffe Solutions, PO Box 932 Dunedin 9054, or by telephoning (06) 353 2700.

Rules may also be read, free of charge, at the national and regional offices of the Transport Agency.

In time, the VDAM Rule (incorporating the amendment) will be made available on link)

Where can I get more information?

Further information about the amendment Rule is available from the Transport Agency Contact Centre, freephone 0800 699 000.

How does the Transport Agency make sure people know about the amendment Rules?

A newsletter outlining the Rule changes is sent to the groups and individuals who have registered their interest in Rules that have been amended. The Transport Agency will advise relevant industry groups of the changes.

Where required, the Transport Agency will update its website, factsheets and other information about overweight and overdimension motor vehicles and high-productivity motor vehicle permits.

Last updated: 24 August 2014