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Getting towed: Your rights when dealing with tow-truck operators

Legal requirements for tow-truck operators

Land Transport Act 1998, s 30J Land Transport Rule: Operator Licensing 2017, s 5.8 – 5.12

There are some legal requirements that tow-truck operators have to meet:

  • Licensing
    • anyone carrying on a tow-truck business must have a special licence to do this (the land transport laws call a towing business a “vehicle recovery service”).
  • Displaying name and details
    • the name and contact details of the tow-truck operator must be clearly displayed both outside and inside the truck
    • the driver’s driver identification card must also be clearly displayed.
  • Their behaviour
    • the tow-truck driver must behave in an orderly and civil manner
    • if the driver has someone else with them (other than another licensed tow-truck driver or the owner of the towing business), the driver is responsible for making sure the other person doesn’t behave in a threatening or improper way. In other words, they can’t bring along someone just to intimidate vehicle owners.
    • the driver can’t have a dog or other animal with them
    • the owner of the tow-truck business is responsible for the behaviour of their drivers and other employees.
  • Authority for each tow
    • the driver can’t tow a vehicle unless they have a specific “tow authority” for it – this is an official form that has all the relevant details, including where your vehicle is being towed to and the driver’s name, address and signature
    • in particular, your vehicle usually can’t be towed unless the tow authority is signed by the person who authorised the tow, which must be either: you, or someone representing you; or a police officer or traffic warden (for example, if you were parked on a public road but blocking an entrance, or if you were in a crash); or the landowner, if you’re being towed from private property, like a carpark. If the tow-truck driver can’t get the signature of the person who authorised the tow, the driver must record that person’s name and contact details.
  • Obeying police and emergency workers
    • at a crash scene, tow-truck drivers have to obey any instructions given by police officers, traffic wardens, firefighters or ambulance officers to move their truck away.
  • Keeping records of tows and complaints
    • tow-truck operators must keep a register that records, in date order, all the tows carried out by the business
    • towing businesses also have to keep a register of all written complaints they’ve received (see: Complaining about a tow-truck operator”).

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Driving and traffic law

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres/

For Community Law’s guide to applying for a limited licence and template application forms: communitylaw.org.nz/resources/legal-letters

Waka Kotahi – New Zealand Transport Agency

Waka Kotahi’s site provides a wide range of driving and road safety information, including on topics covered in this chapter.

Website: www.nzta.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 699 000
Email: info@nzta.govt.nz

Search your question on Waka Kotahi’s resources section: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources

New Zealand Police

The New Zealand Police’s “frequently asked questions” section provides helpful information, particularly the “Driving/road safety” and “Tickets/infringements” section.

Website: www.police.govt.nz/advice-and-services/faqs

New Zealand Government

The New Zealand government website sets out more information about driving fines and penalties, including how to pay for infringement notices.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/transport/driving-fines-and-penalties

Consumer Protection

The Consumer Protection website has useful information on a range of consumer topics, including private parking tickets and the towing and clamping of cars.

Website: www.consumerprotection.govt.nz/help-product-service/cars/parking-clamping-towing

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