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New Zealand has a tiered (graduating) licencing system for drivers. As you continue through the system, it is meant to help you gradually test and improve your driving and road safety abilities. Applicants seeking a heavy vehicle licence in NZ (class 2 and higher) for the first time must hold a class 1 (light motor vehicle) licence first.

As a prerequisite, you must have the class 1 full licence for a minimum of 6 months before applying for a class 2 learner’s licence for driving heavy vehicles in NZ.

Heavy vehicle licence classes in NZ

Having a heavy vehicle driver’s licence in NZ allows you to drive a variety of vehicles, such as,

  • Trucks and trailers
  • Buses
  • Cranes
  • Fire engines
  • Forklifts
  • Heavy tractors
  • Agriculture and construction machines (self-powered)
  • Pivot steering vehicles

There are four separate heavy vehicle licences (Classes 2–5), each dependent on the vehicle’s type (rigid or combination) and weight. They are as follows:

  • Class 2 and 2L – Medium rigid vehicles
  • Class 3 and 3L – Medium combination vehicles
  • Class 4 and 4L – Heavy rigid vehicles
  • Class 5 and 5L – Heavy combination vehicles

(L = Learner’s permit)

Class 2 licence – medium rigid vehicle (learner or restricted)

You can drive the following heavy vehicles with a class 2 learners or full licence:

  • A rigid vehicle with a GLW (Gross Loaded Weight) > 6000kg and < 18,000kg
  • A combination vehicle (excluding a tractor or trailer combination) with a GCW (Gross Combined Weight) of 12,000kg or less
  • A combination vehicle consisting of a rigid vehicle (excluding tractors) with a GLW < 18,000kg towing a light trailer
  • A rigid vehicle with a GLW > 6000kg but < 18,000kg
  • A rigid vehicle with a GLW > 18,000kg and no more than two axles.
  • Any vehicle covered in class 1 with a GLW > 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg if driven at a speed surpassing 30km/h
  • Any tractor with a GLW > 6000kg but < 18,000kg if driven at a speed exceeding 30km/h
  • All vehicles that come under the class 1 vehicle category

A class 1 learner or restricted licence holder can drive the following vehicles:

  • Any vehicle with a Gross Loaded Weight (GLW) of Gross Combined Weight (GCW) < 4500kg, including tractors and combined vehicles (tow car), but not motorcycles
  • An all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or a moped (ATV). A moped is a motorcycle with a capacity of 50cc or less; an ATV is a four-wheeled off-road vehicle, sometimes known as a quad bike
  • A campervan, caravanette, motorhome, and a lightweight van with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of < 6000kg and an on-road weight of < 4500kg

Medium Rigid (Full) Class 2 Licence

Having a Class 2 Driver’s Licence allows you to drive special vehicles, such as an agricultural motor vehicle with wheels, with a GLW of > 6000kg but not exceeding 18,000kg. The speed limit is 40km/h (may or may not have a W Endorsement).

Getting a Class 2 licence

Before getting a class 2 licence, you must, first, get a class 2 learner’s licence.

For that, you must have:

  • A full class 1 licence, held for at least six months;
  • A medical certificate (if necessary); and
  • A theoretical exam with a passing grade.

To get a complete class 2 licence, you must show the following documents:

  • A medical certificate (if required)
  • Proof of a class 2 learner’s licence held for at least six months, followed by a practical test with a passing grade in a Class 2 vehicle; or
  • Proof of a class 2 learner’s licence, followed by an authorised training programme for advancement to a class 2 complete licence.

To sign up for a class 2 licence course, get in touch with us.

Can I convert my overseas heavy vehicle licence to a class 2 licence?

All heavy vehicle drivers must take and pass a heavy vehicle theory exam to convert a valid foreign heavy vehicle licence to a New Zealand heavy vehicle licence.

If you have held your licence for more than two years and it is from one of the following countries, you don’t need to take a practical test: 

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • UK
  • USA

Medium combination (learner or full) class 3 licence

A holder of a class 3 learner or full licence can drive:

  • A combination vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of > 12,000kg and < 25,000kg
  • All vehicles covered in classes 1 and 2

Getting a class 3 licence

To get a class 3 heavy vehicle licence in NZ, you must first get a class 3 learner’s permit.

To do so, you must have:

  • A valid class 2 driver’s licence held for at least six months (or at least three months, if you are aged 25 or over) 
  • A medical certificate (if required)
  • A theoretical exam with a passing grade

For further information, get in touch with a Roadtrain expert.

For a complete class 3 licence, you must show the following documents:

  • A medical certificate (if required)
  • Proof of a Class 3 learner’s licence held for at least six months, followed by proof of a passing grade on practical test in a class 3 combination vehicle; or
  • Proof of a class 3 learner’s licence and a completed authorised course for advancement to a class 3 full licence.

Heavy rigid (learner or full) class 4 licence

A class 4 learner or full licence allows you to drive:

  • A rigid vehicle (including any tractor) with a GLW of more than 18,000kg
  • A combination vehicle consisting of a rigid vehicle with a GLW of more than 18,000kg towing a light trailer
  • Vehicles covered in classes 1 and 2, but not class 3

How do I get my class 4 truck licence?

To get a class 4 truck licence, you must first hold a full class 2 licence for at least six months (or three months if you are 25 or older), then apply for a class 4 learner’s licence.

Vehicles one can drive with a class 4 heavy vehicle driver’s licence in NZ

  • Huge haul trucks weighing > 18000kg
  • Big rigid trucks with a GLW of > 18000kg
  • Big coaches or buses

Vehicles that are not permitted under a class 4 heavy vehicle licence in NZ

With a class 4 licence, you cannot drive a class 3 or 5 combination vehicle. You can tow a light trailer with this class 4 licence.

Heavy combination (learner or full) class 5 licence

A class 5 learner or full licence allows you to drive:

  • A combination heavy vehicle with a GCW > 25,000kg
  • All vehicles mentioned in classes 1, 2, 3 and 4.

How do I get my class 5 truck licence?

To get a class 5 truck licence, you must first hold a full class 4 licence for at least six months (or three months if you are 25 or older), then apply for a class 5 learner licence.

What are the type of vehicles you can drive on a class 5 Licence?

A heavy rigid truck (eg., a tanker truck) towing a large trailer with a GCW of > 25,000kg.

A tractor towing a trailer with a GCW > 25,000kg.

Getting a class 5 licence

You need to get hold of a class 5 learner’s permit before you can apply for the full licence. Take note of the following as well:

  • Be in possession of a full class 4 licence for at least six months (or at least three months, if you are aged 25 or over)
  • A medical certificate must be shown (if required)
  • You must pass a theoretical exam (unless you have previously passed a theory test for a class 3 licence).

You’ll also need the following documents: 

  • Proof of a class 5 learner’s licence held for at least six months, followed by a practical test with a passing grade in a Class 5 combination vehicle; or
  • Proof of a class 5 learner’s licence, followed by an authorised course for advancement to a class 5 full licence.

Taking the practical test:

  • The total time for the full licence test is 30 minutes, which includes 20 minutes of driving.
  • The testing fee will be charged again if you do not pass or show up for the test.

Can I convert my overseas heavy vehicle licence to a class 5 licence?

All heavy vehicle drivers who wish to convert their valid overseas licence to a New Zealand licence must first take and pass a theory test in New Zealand.

In the case of a driver’s licence from one of the following countries, you will not be required to take a practical test, given that you’ve held your licence for more than two years:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United States

Proposals for class 5 licences

Current proposals are that:

  • Class 5 learner’s licence should no longer be required.
  • Anyone with a class 4 full licence will be able to drive a class 5 heavy vehicle, provided they have a supervisor.
  • For anyone who’s below 25 years, the wait time for a class 4 full licence to receive a class 5 full licence will be six months.
  • Drivers under the age of 25 who hold a class 4 full licence will be required to wait six months before applying for a class 5 full licence; however, drivers over the age of 25 will not be required to wait at all.
  • Important tasks such as coupling and decoupling trailers, lashings and loading, among others, will be included in the courses and practice tests to increase the difficulty level.

Licence application cost (classes 2 – 5):

  • The application fee for a learner’s licence is $48.20, and the test fee is $45.70.
  • The application fee for a full licence is $49.60, and the test fee is $59.90.
  • There will be a cost to use or rent a vehicle for the practical exam.
  • There is a $16.40 cost if you cancel your test more than two days in advance.
  • If you cancel your test within two working days of the scheduled date, you will forfeit your whole cost and will be required to pay again.

Click this link to get more information about the application process.

To learn more about how to get accredited training for class 2 – 5 heavy vehicle licence in NZ, click this link.