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New Rules To Improve Vehicle Safety

Transport Minister Mark Gosche today announced new rules to improve the safety of vehicles on New Zealand roads.

The new rules cover seatbelts, vehicle inspection and certification procedures and brakes of light vehicles.

From 1 October this year all vehicles will have to undergo annual Warrant of Fitness (WoF) inspections until they are six years old, with inspections required every six months after that, said Mr Gosche.

“At present, used imported vehicles must be inspected every six months, regardless of their age. The new rules will provide for consistent treatment of identical vehicles, regardless of whether they are new or imported. This will mean cost savings for owners of near-new imported vehicles.”

The new rules will also strengthen LTSA’s powers to prevent water-damaged vehicles from being certified for use on New Zealand roads because of the damage caused to components critical to safety. This damage can be difficult to detect (or predict) when imported vehicles enter the country.

“This requirement will provide greater assurance to the public about the safety of the vehicles that they are intending to buy. It will ensure that we do not have a repeat of the uncertainty experienced last year when a shipment of flood-damaged Japanese cars were brought into the country.”

Seatbelts are to be required for a wider range of vehicles as a result of these rule changes. A staged approach will be used over the next few years to require minibuses, new light vehicles, heavy goods vehicles and motor homes to have seatbelts. Minibuses will be the first required to comply with the changes, with seatbelts needed for all front seats of these vehicles by 1 October this year.

“Wearing a seatbelt won’t stop an accident occurring, but it will reduce the chances of death or serious injury by 40 per cent.”

Other changes mean that, where available, newer “webbing clamp-type’ seatbelts will be required as replacements for seatbelts using older technology if they fail a Warrant of Fitness (WoF) inspection. This requirement will come into effect on 1 April next year (2003).

“Webbing clamp-type seatbelts are safer than older-style retractor-type seatbelts because, in the event of a crash, they hold people more firmly in their seat. Fitting webbing clamp-type seatbelts should significantly reduce the severity of injury in crashes.”

Webbing clamp-type seatbelts will only be required if they can be fitted without structural modification to the vehicle, and the seatbelt is not part of an integrated frontal impact system.

Mr Gosche said there would also be new safety requirements for brakes on lighter vehicles, including light trailers.

“These changes mean light trailers will be able to be fitted with less costly types of brakes. At present some trailer owners have not fitted any brakes at all because of the expense of complying.”

The new rules will also allow the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) to vary the period between Certificate of Fitness (CoF) inspections for commercial vehicles, depending on the operator’s safety rating.

“The LTSA’s resources will be focused on those commercial operators who do not have a good safety record while rewarding those who take proactive steps to improve safety.”

These latest rules are in addition to those signed on 12 December last year relating to frontal impact standards, due to come into effect on April 1 this year.

“The government is committed to improving road safety. By raising vehicle standards, more crashes can be prevented and when crashes do occur, the trauma can minimised.”

For details of the new rules see the LTSA website and the questions and answers attached to this release.

New Vehicle Safety Rules - Questions and Answers

Questions and answers for the latest new and revised rules are outlined below, and are available electronically on

The full text of all Land Transport Rules are available at government bookshops and on-line at

The Revised Compliance Rule

Q: When does the rule come into force?

A: The rule comes into force on 1 April 2002, although some changes will not take effect immediately.

Q: How will Warrant of Fitness inspections change?

A: From 1 October 2002, all passenger cars will be subject to annual Warrant of Fitness (WoF) inspections until they are six years old, with inspections required every six months after that. Currently used imports must have a WoF inspection every six months, regardless of their age.

Q: Why make this change?

A: Basing requirements for safety inspections on a vehicle's age (rather than whether it was new or used when imported) will make the system more consistent. Used imports undergo a thorough inspection when they are certified to enter New Zealand, so they are equal in terms of safety to cars of the same age that entered New Zealand as new vehicles.

Q: What are the new rules for water damaged vehicles?

A: Currently vehicles which have been damaged by water are treated the same as other structurally damaged vehicles. They are "flagged" at border inspections, and they can be used on New Zealand roads provided they undergo specialist certification to check any repairs and components that may have been damaged.

The Compliance Rule will allow the LTSA to refuse to certify and register vehicles that are water damaged when they enter New Zealand. Very minor water damage which does not effect major safety components like airbags or electrical systems will not prevent a vehicle from being imported. A Gazette notice will be issued later this year specifying the extent of water damage which will result in a vehicle being refused certification.

Q: Why is this change necessary?

A: Water-damaged vehicles are potentially dangerous. Even if the components known to be water damaged (e.g. airbags and electrical systems) are replaced so that the vehicle may be certified on the day it is inspected, there are long-term effects from water damage which are difficult to predict of check by inspection. Serious problems could emerge long after the inspection has been carried out including corrosion and the failure of electrical systems. The change will reduce the risk of water-damaged vehicles causing crashes and injuries on our roads.

Q: What are the changes for the Certificate of Fitness inspection system?

A: The revised Compliance Rule establishes the legal framework which would allow for the introduction of varied Certificate of Fitness (CoF) periods for commercial vehicles depending on the operator’s safety record. This change would be included as part of the Operator Safety Rating System, which is not scheduled for implementation until at least 2004. The aim of the Operator Safety Rating System is to target operators with poor safety records and increase the overall safety of the fleet.

Q: What other changes are included in the revised Compliance Rule?

A: The rule introduces new inspection and certification requirements for agricultural vehicles which travel on the road at speeds greater than 30 km/h. These will now be subject to Warrant of Fitness inspections.

The Seatbelts Rule

Q: When does the rule come into force?

A: The rule comes into force on 1 April 2002, although some changes will not take effect immediately.

Q: What are the main changes in the rule?

A: The rule outlines where seatbelts must be fitted in vehicles of various classes and the types of seatbelts for each seating position. The main changes are:

- After 1 April 2003 older style 'retractor' seatbelts fitted to front seats which fail WoF inspections must be replaced with modern 'webbing-clamp' belts where available

- From 1 April 2002, seatbelt requirements for newly registered vehicles will be based on the date of manufacture or first registration of the vehicle.

- vehicles first registered in New Zealand after 1 October 2002 that have sideways-facing seats must have lap seatbelts.

- a seatbelt in a light vehicle that is modified for specialist purposes (e.g. for motor sport) must be certified by a low-volume vehicle certifier

Q: Why will older seatbelts have to be replaced with 'webbing clamp' belts?

A: Webbing clamp belts are safer than older retractor belts. Ordinary retractor seatbelts can allow some slippage in the event of a crash. Webbing-clamp seatbelts have a device that grabs the webbing of the belt as it leaves the retractor mechanism. This reduces the scope for drivers and passengers to move forward and strike the vehicle’s interior in a crash.

Q: Will all seatbelts that fail a WoF have to be replaced with webbing grabber belts?

A: No. Webbing clamp belts will only be required when they are suitable for the vehicle. They will not be required if the seatbelt is part of an integrated frontal impact protections system or if their installation would require structural modifications to the vehicle. They will also not be required if a suitable webbing clamp belt is not available for a particular make and model.

Q: What if a webbing clamp belt isn’t available as a replacement?

A: If the webbing clamp replacement belt is not in stock or is not readily available (e.g. by overnight courier), a different type of replacement belt can be used, provided it is at least as good as the original belt and it meets appropriate standards and safety requirements.

Q: Are webbing clamp belts more expensive?

A: Upgrading to a webbing-clamp seatbelt increase in the cost of replacing seatbelts slightly, depending on the model of vehicle. In many cases the upgrade would simply involve the new belts being bolted into place. The cost increase would be approximately $30 per belt.

Q: What are the new requirements for seatbelts in minibuses?

A: Minibuses will be required to have seatbelts fitted in all front seats by 1 October 2002. Minibuses manufactured or registered after 1 October 2003 will be required to have seatbelts fitted in all seating positions.

Q: What are the new requirements for motor homes?

A: All motor homes manufactured or first registered after 1 October 2003, and vehicles converted into motor homes after that date will need to have seatbelts fitted in the front seats, and as many seatbelts in the rear seats as the number of sleeping berths minus the number of front seats. For example, if the motor home sleeps six, it must have seatbelts for six - if there are two front seats, there must be four seatbelts in the back.

Q: What are the specific requirements for newly registered vehicles?

A: Seatbelt requirements have been simplified to cover three broad groups. This will make it easier to check that you have the right seatbelts fitted in your vehicle. The types of seatbelts each seat must have are summarised below.

Vehicle manufactured or first registered before 1 January 1955¡K

Vehicles manufactured or first registered in any country before 1 January 1955 don’t have to have seatbelts. If there are seatbelts fitted, they must be attached to appropriate seatbelt anchorages and they must meet the general safety requirements.

Vehicle manufactured or first registered between 1 January 1955 and 1 November 1979¡K

Class LE1, LE2, MA, MB, MC or NA vehicles manufactured or first registered between 1/1/1955 and 1/11/1979 must have lap-and-diagonal seatbelts in the driver’s seating position and front outer seating position.

Vehicle manufactured or first registered between 1 November 1979 and 1 October 2003¡K

Class LE1, LE2, MA, MB or MC vehicles manufactured or first registered between 1/11/1979 and 1/10/2003 must have:

- lap-and-diagonal retractor seatbelts for the driver and front outer seating position

- lap-and-diagonal seatbelts in all rear outer seating positions; and

- lap seatbelts in all front and rear middle seating positions.

Class NA vehicles manufactured or first registered between 1/11/1979 and 1/10/2003 must have:

- lap-and-diagonal retractor seatbelts for the driver and front outer seating position

- lap seatbelts in all front middle seating positions.

A Class MD1 or MD2 vehicle manufactured or first registered between 1/11/1979 and 1/10/2003 must have lap-and-diagonal retractor seatbelts for the driver and front outer seating position, and lap seatbelts in all front middle seating positions, on or after 1 October 2002. If retrofitting is required, those seatbelts must be retrofitted before 1 October 2003.

The Seats Rule

Q: When does the rule come into force?

A: The rule comes into force on 1 April 2002.

Q: What specific changes have been made?

A: There were previously no legal requirements for the design, construction and maintenance of seats. The rule sets out minimum strength standards for seats and requires that they be securely anchored to the structure of the vehicle. This will help protect the occupants of the car in the event of a crash.

Q: Why do we need these changes?

A: Seats are important for providing more than comfort. A badly constructed or poorly anchored seat can be a hazard to vehicle occupants in the event of a collision.

The Light Vehicle Brakes rule

Q: When does this rule come into force?

A: The rule comes into force on 1 April 2002.

Q: Why are these changes necessary?

A: The rule aims to reduce crashes where vehicles are towing light trailers. Many crashes now occur because vehicles which should be fitted with brakes are not - the rule will make it simpler for people to fit trailers with the proper brakes.

Q: What specific changes have been made?

A: The rule clarifies and consolidates existing requirements for brakes on light vehicles (less than 3,500kg), including trailers.

From 1 April 2002 "overrun" type brakes will be allowed on trailers with a laden weight of up to 2,500kg. "Breakaway" brakes and mechanical parking brakes will no longer required for trailers 2,000kg-2,500kg. Instead of breakaway brakes, these trailers can be fitted with "twin crossed safety chains". These two chains must be able to reduce the chance of trailers breaking away, and prevent too much draw-bar movement if the coupling fails.

All brakes fitted to trailers must be in good working order - regardless of whether the brakes are legally required or not.

Summary of light trailer brake requirements

Type of brake Class TA or Class TB, laden weight 2,000kg or less Class TB, laden weight between 2,000kg and 2,500kg Class TB, laden weight 2,500kg or more

Service brake Not required, but if fitted see performance requirements below. Required: May be either a direct trailer braking system or an indirect trailer braking system (see definitions below) Required: Must be a direct trailer braking system

Parking brake Not required Not required Required

Breakaway brake Not required Not required Required

Two safety chains and appropriate coupling Not required Required: Unless fitted with a breakaway brake.

The coupling must have a manufacturer’s rating appropriate for the weight of trailer and there must be two safety chains that cross each other when connected. Not required

Q: What are indirect trailer service brakes?

A: Indirect trailer service brakes are those which are controlled by applying the brakes of the towing vehicle. These include “override” brakes.

Q: What are direct trailer service brakes?

A: Direct trailer service brakes are operated by the driver of the towing vehicle, but are not controlled by the towing vehicles brake pedal. These include vacuum operated brakes and pneumatic over hydraulic systems, controlled directly by the driver of the towing vehicle.

Q: What are the performance requirements for brakes on light trailers?

A: If fitted, trailer brakes must:

act on each wheel of at least one axle, and

in conjunction with the towing vehicle’s brakes, be capable of stopping the combination of towing and towed vehicles within 7 metres from a speed of 30km/h.

- The parking brake, if fitted, must be capable of holding the trailer at rest on a slope of 1 in 5.

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