The EASY Guide to Getting a Commercial Driver's License in New Zealand

The EASY Guide to Getting a Commercial Driver’s License in New Zealand

how to obtain cdl new zealand

Whether you aspire to handle heavy vehicles or transport passengers, obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) opens the door to exciting opportunities on the open road.

If you’re wondering how to start the process of obtaining your CDL license, don’t worry! This guide is here to accompany you every step of the way. 

How to apply for a commercial driver’s license in New Zealand

DifficultyModerate ●●●○○
Number of Steps5
Time to perform stepsUsually, several months
Things you need• Completed application form
• Proof of identity
• Meeting the required eyesight standard
• Photo and signature
• Medical certificate (if required)
• Payment of full license application and test fees
• Approved course certificate (if applicable)

To apply for a commercial driver’s license in New Zealand, you need to go to the New Zealand Transport Agency or a driver licensing agent for assistance, submit your application, and provide the necessary information. 

We’ll break all of the steps down below!

STEP 1. Determine the appropriate license class.

STEP 1. Determine the appropriate license class.

The first step is all about picking the right set of wheels for your future adventures on the road. 

New Zealand offers four distinct license classes for heavy vehicles, and it’s crucial to identify which class aligns with the type and weight of the vehicle you plan to drive.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the license classes:

  • Class 2 – Medium Rigid Vehicles: If you’re eyeing those medium-sized beasts, like trucks with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) exceeding 6,000 kilograms but not surpassing 18,000 kilograms, then Class 2 is your go-to option.
  • Class 3 – Medium Combination Vehicles: For those looking to conquer the road with medium-sized combos, such as a truck and trailer combination with a GVM exceeding 12,000 kilograms, Class 3 is the license class to pick.
  • Class 4 – Heavy Rigid Vehicles: This license class is designed for drivers who aspire to operate heavy rigid vehicles, like buses and trucks with three or more axles.
  • Class 5 – Heavy Combination Vehicles: If you’ve got your sights set on the big guns, then Class 5 is your ticket. This license class covers heavy combination vehicles, including articulated trucks and those with a trailer GVM exceeding 9,000 kilograms.

STEP 2. Obtain a heavy vehicle learner license.

STEP 2. Obtain a heavy vehicle learner license.

To start the process, you need to obtain a heavy vehicle learner license by applying at a driver licensing agent. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Fill out that Application Form: Start by grabbing the application form [PDF, 197 KB], and make sure to fill it out with all the required details. 
  1. Prove Your Identity: Don’t forget to bring along evidence of your identity. This could be your passport, New zealand driver license, or any other official document that confirms who you are. 
  1. Clear Vision Check: Time to prove your eyesight is razor-sharp. Get your peepers checked, and make sure your vision meets the required standard. Safety first, my friend!
  1. Medical Certificate (If Required): In some cases, you may need a medical certificate to demonstrate that you’re fit for the road. If it applies to you, make sure to obtain this document and bring it along.
  1. Pay the Fees and Book a Test: Pay the learner license application and test fees like a boss. Once that’s done, book a test time that suits your schedule. 
  1. Ace the Theory Test: Get those brain gears turning! Prepare yourself for the learner license theory test. Show off your knowledge and pass the test with flying colors. 

Once you’ve aced the theory test, the agent will reward you with a temporary learner license, allowing you to start practicing your driving skills. 

Now, with that in hand, you have a couple of options on your journey to obtaining a full license:

  • Option 1: Fast track with an approved course: Complete an approved course for the specific license class you’re aiming for, train, then prove your competence. 
  • Option 2: Wait for half a year: Hold onto that learner license for a minimum of six months then prove your driving prowess by passing a practical test. 

Don’t worry, we’ll tackle both options.

Important Note: During the period of holding a heavy vehicle learner license in New Zealand, it is mandatory to have a licensed driver, who has held a full New Zealand license for the same class of vehicle for at least two years, accompany you as your supervisor.

STEP 3. Complete an approved course. (Either this or proceed to Step 4)

STEP 3. Complete an approved course. (Either this or proceed to Step 4)

Completing an approved course tailored to your desired license class is your ticket to the express lane. But how do you find an approved course? Here’s a quick rundown of options for you:

  • Check with the licensing authority: Start by contacting the licensing authority responsible for heavy vehicle licenses in your region. They can provide you with information on approved course providers and recommend training programs.
  • Online search: Conduct an online search using keywords such as “approved heavy vehicle training courses” or “licensed commercial driver training.” Explore the websites of training institutes and driving schools that offer specialized programs for heavy vehicle licenses.
  • Seek recommendations: Reach out to experienced commercial drivers or professionals in the transportation industry. They may have firsthand knowledge of approved courses and can provide valuable recommendations.

STEP 4. Pass the full practical driving test. (Either this or Step 3)

STEP 4. Pass the full practical driving test. (Either this or Step 3)

This is only possible if you’ve held onto that learner license for at least 6 months. The full practical driving test is where you’ll put your skills to the test.

Booking the test is the first step. Simply schedule your full practical driving test online, choosing a date and time that work best for you. 

During the 30-minute test, a testing officer will closely observe your driving abilities. They will assess your control of the heavy vehicle, your adherence to road rules, and your overall competence as a driver. 

To increase your chances of success, here are some valuable tips:

  • Practice makes perfect: Spend ample time practicing behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle. Familiarize yourself with its handling characteristics and become comfortable with its size and weight distribution.
  • Know the test criteria: Understand the requirements and criteria that the testing officer will be evaluating during the test. This includes proper vehicle control, maneuvering skills, and situational awareness.
  • Stay updated with road rules: Stay informed about the latest traffic laws, road signs, and regulations. Make sure you’re aware of any recent changes that may affect your driving.
  • Practice mock tests: Familiarize yourself with the test format by practicing mock driving tests. This will help you become more comfortable with the test environment, time constraints, and expectations.

Passing the full practical driving test will give you the ticket to claiming your full heavy vehicle license. 

STEP 5. Claim your full heavy vehicle license.

STEP 5. Claim your full heavy vehicle license.

Now let’s dive into what you need to do to claim your full license. This is where it all comes together.

To begin, you must apply for your full license at a driver licensing agent. Here’s a breakdown of the process:

  1. Fill out the application form: Start by completing the application form (DL1), you can either download it or obtain it from the licensing agent. Ensure that you provide accurate and up-to-date information.
  1. Present your identity evidence: Gather the necessary documents to prove your identity. This may include your passport, New Zealand driver license, or other forms of identification as specified by the licensing authority. It’s crucial to verify your identity to ensure the security and validity of your license.
  1. Demonstrate your eyesight meets the requirements: Undergo an eyesight test to confirm that your vision meets the required standard for driving. This test typically involves reading a vision chart or performing visual assessments to assess your visual acuity and peripheral vision.
  1. Take a photo and provide a signature: Allow the licensing agent to capture your photo and signature for your full license. This will be an official representation of you as a licensed commercial driver.
  1. Provide the medical certificate (if required): In some cases, you may need to provide a medical certificate to demonstrate your fitness to drive heavy vehicles. This requirement ensures that you are in good health and capable of safely operating such vehicles. 
  1. Pay the application and test fees: Prepare to pay the required fees for your full license application and the practical driving test. The fees cover the administrative costs associated with processing your application and conducting the necessary assessments.

Once you have completed the above steps, you then have to either present your approved course certificate or book and pass the full practical driving test—the ones we’ve tackled earlier—and that’s it! You’re now a commercial driver’s license holder.