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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).

How do I apply?

Applying online

You can apply online(external link) if:

  • your application is for an individual or sole trader, or
  • your company only has one director or person in charge.

You’ll need:

  • your New Zealand driver licence number, and
  • a verified RealMe identity*, and
  • a credit or debit card or your internet banking details to pay the fee ($449.80 for the application and $9.70 for the vetting).

*You’ll have a verified RealMe identity already if you’ve applied on the RealMe website and then visited a PostShop to have your photo taken, or signed up for a verified identity when you renewed your passport online.

Find out more about RealMe(external link)

If you meet these criteria, you can make your application online(external link).

Applying at an agent

If you don't meet the criteria for applying online, you'll need to apply at a driver licensing agent. 

Find a driver licensing agent in your area

You need to provide:

Persons in control

Under section 30L of the Land Transport Act 1998, the NZ Transport Agency must be satisfied that anyone who will have, or is likely to have, control or involvement in the operation of the transport service is a fit and proper person.

Anyone who has direct or indirect control of any part of the management of the organisation must complete a Personal details form (TL02) [PDF, 135 KB] and provide evidence of identity. This is so we can determine if they all meet the requirements of a fit and proper person.

Evidence of identity

Each person in control must provide evidence of their identity with the application. This can be either:

  • their New Zealand photo driver licence, or
  • their passport.

These can be current or expired up to two years.

They must also provide a photocopy of their evidence of identity. They can either:

  • provide a certified copy* of their evidence of identity, or
  • provide a photocopy of their evidence of identity AND present the original driver licence or passport when the application is lodged at a driver licensing agent.

*A certified copy needs to be stamped or endorsed by a person who confirms that the copy is a true copy of the original document. This can be a:

  • Justice of the Peace.
  • Solicitor of the High Court.
  • Notary Public.
  • Deputy Registrar at a court (not all courts will be able to certify copies).

Passport and visa details

If you’re not a New Zealand citizen, you and/or your employer are responsible for making sure you’re eligible to work here. If you’re not sure, please contact Immigration New Zealand(external link).

Each person in control that isn’t a New Zealand citizen will need to provide their passport number and nationality and their work visa or permit start date on their Personal details form (TL02) [PDF, 135 KB] form.

This is so we can check with Immigration NZ that they have a right to live and work in New Zealand.

Change of persons in control

If any of the persons in control of the service change, you must let the Transport Agency know. You should complete a Notification of change in control or management of transport service licence form (TL04) [PDF, 78 KB].

Any new persons in control will need to complete a Personal details form (TL02) [PDF, 135 KB] and pay a vetting fee.

You also need to let us know if your address changes, or the main address of the transport service changes. You can call us to update your address on 0800 822 422.

You must let us know of any changes within 14 days.

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 vehicle recovery service licence to display a TSL label.

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 vehicle recovery 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.

Find out how to get a certificate of knowledge of law and practice

Penalties for operating an unlicensed service

It’s illegal to operate an unlicensed vehicle recovery service. 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).

More information

Download Factsheet 47 – Transport service licences [PDF, 65 KB]

More information about running a vehicle recovery service

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