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Criminal & traffic law

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 2007, s 10.1–10.14

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

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Applying for a limited licence” (guide)

This Plain English guide, plus template application forms and affidavits, will help you apply for a limited licence. It’s available on the Community Law website – www.communitylaw.org.nz

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)


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

The NZTA site provides a wide range of driving and road safety information, including on topics covered in this chapter.

You can read and download fact sheets and other publications from their site, or you can order hard copies by contacting them, including their fact-sheet on Legal mobile phone use while driving.


NZ Police

Frequently Asked Questions


The “Driving/road safety” and “Tickets/infringements” section of this webpage have Frequently Asked Questions about traffic fines, speeding, demerit points and where you can pay your fines.

Consumer protection

“Parking, towing and clamping”


This Consumer Protection webpage has information about the law covering tow trucks and wheel-clamping on public and private property, and about unreasonable fees in private car parks.

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