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Driving Tips - NZ Truck Hire

At u-save we want our van and truck hire customers to have a great rental experience and as safety is a big priority for us we thought we’d share some driving tips. Most rental trucks and vans are easy to drive and the majority can be operated on a Class 1 licence but it’s still worth bearing in mind the basics when you are in an unfamiliar vehicle.

New Zealand Truck Hire - Legal Requirements

First let’s get the legalities out of the way – when hiring a New Zealand rental truck, you will encounter age and licensing restrictions that you must be aware of. There are also a number of costs that are required for you to be able to hire a vehicle, designed to protect both the rental company and yourself in the event of a collision or other accident. As long as you meet these restrictions, hiring a truck is a simple process.


While the age limit can vary from hire company to hire company, it is usually that all drivers must be at least 20 years old and hold a full driver’s license (not a learners permit or restricted licence). An international full license is required if you are a visitor from overseas and have a licence that is not written in English


While the majority of rental trucks in New Zealand are able to be driven on a Class 1 Drivers Licence (2-3 ton trucks, usually these will be listed as 10 – 20m³ capacities), some heavier trucks may require a Class 2 license. A Class 2 heavy traffic license will be required as a legal requirement.


A rental bond is required for all vehicle rentals in NZ, for hiring a truck expect to pay a bond of around NZ$1000. This is refundable upon completion of the hire period and returning the vehicle in satisfactory condition. Cash or a signed credit card details are both acceptable methods of payment.


Trucks must be returned with the same level of fuel they started with. You will usually be provided with a full tank upon hire, it is common practice to return the vehicle with a full tank – if you do not you will be charged a set fee for replacement fuel. 

Booking Deposit

Many hire companies will require a deposit upon making a booking for a rental truck; the balance is then payable on collection. If you need to cancel your booking this almost certainly will not be refunded, however sometimes it can be transferred to another rental within a certain period of time.

Top Rental Truck Safety Tips

Now let’s get straight into the safety tips – when driving larger, heavy truck rentals it is normal to be unfamiliar with the operation of the vehicle, its braking distances and manoeuvring abilities. Of course, on a normal driver’s license you won’t be driving any eighteen-wheelers, but even trucks that you can hire on a Class 1 license still require a different set of skills to operating a car, it is important to keep in mind the following tips.

Plan Your Route In Advance. 

Work out where you are going and the best route to get you there before you set out, relying on electronic navigation systems is not always the best option when driving a truck as right hand turns and narrow streets may have an impact on the drive-ability of the route.

Familiarise Yourself.

Before you drive away, familiarise yourself with the driving controls, including lights, indicators, windscreen wipers, and position of the fuel cap.


Set Up The Mirrors. 

Position your side and rear view mirrors to enable you to see as much of the road as you can.

Get Comfortable. 

Make sure you are in a comfortable driving position before moving off (seat position, recline, heating/cooling, sunglasses etc).

Monitor Following Distances.

Trucks are much heavier than cars and need a longer braking distance – stay at least 5 seconds behind the vehicle ahead.


Take Care When Changing Lanes

Check your mirrors carefully before changing lanes and always indicate to other road users.

Avoid Sudden Manoeuvres

Give other road users plenty of time to react to any changes in direction or when stopping.

Watch For Hazards

Look out for low-hanging tree limbs, power and phone lines and pay attention to clearance signs at bridges, overpasses and undercover car parks.

Take Turns Slow And Wide

Don’t cut across corners as you may damage the rear wheels or the side of the truck or cut off another vehicle.


Reverse Slowly

If you’re unsure of what is behind you, get out and check before you reverse, or have someone guide you using verbal or hand signals.


Avoid Overusing The Brakes. 

Using a lower gear on steep descents is best practice for heavier vehicles and never use neutral as you risk losing control of the vehicle.


Check Operating Instructions

When loading or unloading Box Body Trucks, check the instructions for operating the tail lift feature.

Ensure All Loads Are Secure/Locked

After loading, ensure doors are securely locked, and your load is well secured and doesn’t hang over the sides.

Take Regular Breaks.

If it’s a long way to your destination, plan to stop often to refresh and refuel – both yourself and the truck.

Drive To The Conditions.

Always drive to the current conditions, roads may be wet or icy, slippery or dry, rough or smooth, narrow or wide, windy or straight – it is important to adjust your driving speeds and style to suit the ever changing conditions of New Zealand roads. See below for our wet weather driving tips.

Know The Road Rules

Check out our quick refresher on the basic NZ Road Rules below or view the full NZ Road Code online and make sure you are familiar with all of the New Zealand Road Rules.

Wet Weather Driving in NZ

Weather conditions in New Zealand vary greatly from one end of the country to the other and are unpredictable at the best of times so it’s important to be prepared and drive accordingly. Extreme wet weather is something you could strike in any part of the country at any time of the year, but it is most prevalent during the winter months.

Water logged soil and heavy rainfall can result in flooding, slips or landslides and excess road surface water. Areas particularly prone to heavy rainfall include the West Coast of the South Island, the Otago and Southland region, the Coromandel Peninsula and very far north of the North Island however adverse weather conditions can be experienced all over NZ at any time of the year.

12 Wet Weather Driving Tips

When driving on New Zealand roads it is a good idea to drive to the conditions and take a little time to plan ahead. For our top 12 tips on wet weather driving in New Zealand take a look below.

1. Reduce Speed

The most important thing you can do in wet weather is stay in control of your vehicle. Having made sure the steering and brakes are serviced regularly on your vehicle, as a driver you can improve your handling and reaction times by slowing down and driving more cautiously than usual.

2. Increase Following Distances

The time and distance it takes to stop your vehicle will greatly increase in extreme wet weather. It is important to leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you to be able to react under unforeseen circumstances.

3. Avoid Large Masses Of Surface Water 

Even if you are driving a specialised off-road vehicle, in times of heavy rain large puddles can become deceptively deep. If the vehicles exhaust or other mechanisms become submerged in the water it may cause the vehicle to stall leaving you stranded.

4. Look After Your Brakes 

When driving under extreme wet weather conditions a vehicle’s brakes can become damp causing a delayed response or even become completely unresponsive. Obviously this is a very dangerous situation to find yourself in and best avoided if you wish to keep control of your vehicle.

5. Check For Weather Warnings

If there’s dangerous weather approaching, it will be mentioned on one of the many radio or television news stations around the country, on local weather forecast websites and in local weather Apps. Asking the locals is always a good idea too, especially if you are in flood or slip-prone areas.

6. Drive Defensively

Overestimate travelling times when driving in the rain, it will always take longer. Be extra cautious of slow moving vehicles, animals or other potential hazards on the road. Avoid overtaking unless absolutely necessary, keep your full attention on the road ahead. And take regular breaks from driving. Drive defensively and stay safe.

7. Don’t Panic If Skidding Occurs

Even the most careful drivers can find themselves caught in a skid. If this situation arises it is important not to panic, avoid slamming on the brakes (which tends to be most people’s instinctive reaction) instead gradually allow the vehicle to slow while attempting to steer it in the direction you wish it to go.

8. Check Your Tyres Before Setting Out

Good tyres play a big factor in road safety whether the roads are wet or not, ensuring they have the required tread depth and inflation levels before setting out on any road trip is crucial. Don’t forget to check the spare tyre as well.

9. Avoid Using Cruise Control

While cruise control and other driver assistance technologies are useful in ideal driving conditions, the chance of losing control of the vehicle can increase when used under wet or difficult conditions. Drivers should be in full control of the vehicle and concentrating on every aspect of driving in order to respond accordingly, cruise control features can delay the driver’s ability to reduce speed hastily.

10. Increase Your Visibility

If it is raining hard enough to mean the windshield wipers are on it is a good idea to turn your head lights on, even if you don’t need them to see the road ahead. Greater visibility is always a bonus for you, other motorists and pedestrians. Pull over if visibility deteriorates to dangerous levels.

11. Travel During Daylight Hours

Where possible travelling in the rain is best completed during daylight hours. Visibility, driver alertness and the ability to make regular pit-stops at local cafes, stores and places along the way increases during the day. Safety always comes first, if the weather is really bad pull over in a safe place and wait it out.

12. Take Extra Care After Dry Periods

When rain occurs after a long dry spell the build-up of grease, dirt and other surface matter can cause the road surface to become unusually slippery. Being aware of the phenomenon means drivers can reduce speeds and act accordingly.

Defensive Driving

Whether you are an experienced driver, just learning the ropes or learning to drive in an unfamiliar vehicle such as a rental truck, revising some defensive driving techniques is always a good idea. The concept of Defensive Driving is all about acting in a way that allows you to prevent accident and avoid hazards by preparing for the worst case scenario when driving. This means things like anticipating the possibility that that sheep on the side of the road may run out in front of you and slowing down, or seeing another vehicle about to pull out in front of you and breaking ahead of time.

6 Defensive Driving Techniques You Need To Know

Driving a truck or unfamiliar vehicle can mean the expected reactions from the vehicle are not carried out in the time frame or the way you are used to when driving your own vehicle – take a quick look at our top 6 defensive driving techniques and stay safe out on the roads.

1. Think Ahead

Scan ahead frequently while driving to be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations. This means extending your field of vision beyond just what’s in front of you and keeping an eye on surrounding traffic, pedestrians, cyclists, road side animals and other road users as well as any vehicles acting erratically or at speed. Be Aware – the more time you have to react the better the likely outcome.

2. Concentrate

Driving requires your full attention, learn to ignore distractions and concentrate on what you are doing. Music, people talking to you, things happening on the side of the road, children, pets and mobile phones can be big distractions when driving. These things can be minimised but not eliminated so you must learn to ignore what is going on around you and focus on driving.

3. Maintain Recommended Following Distances

The NZ Rode Code recommends applying the 2 or 4 second rules when it comes to following distances. This means leaving safe distances between you and the vehicle in front of you. The 2 second rule applies under normal driving conditions and the 4 second when road conditions are wet, frosty or icy.

4. Watch Your Speed

Speed limits are always well signposted and are there for a reason. Do not be tempted to travel at speeds over the legal limit. Also keep in mind that these speeds apply to ideal road and weather conditions, adjust your speed accordingly to match the conditions.

5. Take Your Time

Don’t assume other drivers will behave in a way that you would expect; sometimes this just isn’t the case and it pays to plan your movements around anticipating the worst-case scenario. If in doubt, always give way or wait for the other vehicle to pass by. It’s always better to add on a bit of travel time than end up in a collision.

6. Stay Alert

Being overtired, sleepy or under the influence of drugs (prescription or otherwise) or alcohol will affect your judgement and reaction times when driving. Always, always stay alert when driving, if you feel tired or drowsy pull over for you own safety and the safety of others. Driving while drowsy is one of the leading causes of crashes in NZ, along with driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, loss of control, speeding and being distracted.

The Road Rules In New Zealand

Whether you are a kiwi or not taking the time to do a quick refresher on the Road Rules is a good idea especially when driving an unfamiliar vehicle. Read on for 8 Road Rules to keep in mind, a couple of give way rules that sometimes catch people out and the rules around driving and mobile phone usage in New Zealand.

8 NZ Road Rules To Remember

8 NZ Road Rules To Remember

If you have never hired a truck before, recently relocated to New Zealand or are here on holiday please make sure you know the road rules before setting out. These are some of the basic rules to remember but it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the full New Zealand Road Code.

  1. In New Zealand we drive on the LEFT-hand side of the road.

  2. The urban (town/city) speed limit is 50kmph (approx 30mph) unless indicated otherwise.

  3. The rural/country speed limit is 100kmph (approx 60mph) unless signs indicate otherwise.

  4. All drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times.

  5. The use of mobile phones while driving is illegal, see below for more information on this.

  6. When turning at traffic lights, give way to pedestrians using the crossing.

  7. Don’t cross the solid yellow line when it is on your side of the road – this is a no passing line.

  8. Always come to a complete stop at all intersections with Stop Signs.

  9. Drivers must carry a valid New Zealand, international or internationally approved driver’s licence when operating a vehicle.

  10. Give Way rules in NZ may differ to what you are used to – take a look below for two common ones that people sometimes get wrong.

Give Way Rules To Remember

Whether you’re a foreign visitor or a seasoned New Zealand driver, keeping up with the give way rules is  particularly important when driving a truck – larger, heavier vehicles have more propensity to cause damage, so it’s essential to be responsible.

At intersections all traffic turning right must give way to vehicles coming the other way and turning left. An easy way to remember is that “the little guy goes first” – in other words, the person making the smaller turn has right of way. The rule applies at T-intersections, cross roads and driveways where both vehicles are facing each other with either the same signs or signals or no signs or signals.

If you are coming into a T-intersection (also known as a three-way intersection) from the bottom of the T, you must give way to turning traffic at the top of the T (or the continuing road), particularly those coming from the left and turning right across your intended path. This applies to all T-intersections and public driveways (e.g. supermarkets, car parks etc).

Mobile Phones & Driving In NZ

Safe driving requires driver’s full attention to the road and to what is going on around them. This includes but is not limited to nearby pedestrians, other vehicles and traffic lights and signage, driving while using a mobile phone is a proven distraction and slows reaction times.

It is against the law to use a mobile phone while driving in New Zealand unless a hands free device is installed in the vehicle. Texting while driving is not allowed under any circumstances. Drivers ignoring these rules will be fined.

More On NZ Road Rules

Need more on the New Zealand give way rules and key things you need to know when driving check out the official NZ Road code on the New Zealand Transport Agency website. Or here are some quick links that may come in handy.

Need to hire a truck? u-save have a wide range of rental trucks, vans and minibuses available from Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown. View our full range of vehicles for hire or get some friendly advice from the u-save team.

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Driving Tips For NZ Truck Hire

Driving a truck in New Zealand can be an enjoyable, pretty stress-free affair if you make sure you have done your homework, understand the road rules and take care on the road. Compared to other countries NZ has a lot less traffic on the roads however, our rugged landscape and rapidly changing weather can catch out the most experienced drivers. When combined with driving larger and unfamiliar vehicles such as rental trucks this can mean greater caution is needed.

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