24 February 2015


Finding a doctor to take a new / casual patient for a driver's medical check is like finding a needle in a haystack.

It's been over a decade since I needed to see one and the process over the last couple of months has been truly frustrating.

In the end I went to the one general practioner that I would only go to if life was post-apocalyptic - the choice was that abismal.  Deep down though I didn't want to see my dreams die through lack of fortitude.


Anyway, there is nothing on the NZTA website detailing what the medical examination involves, and most clinical administration staff can't tell you much past needing an appointment with the nurse first and another with the doctor thereafter.  Let me fill you in a little.

Set aside at least an hour as each part may vary between 15 and 30 minutes with waiting in between.

As a result of the longer appointment times your driver's medical will cost you more than a regular appointment - around double.   The prices I got varied between $60 and $80.


The NZTA DL9 form "Medical Certificate for Driver Licence" consists of 4 pages.  It is supplied to you by the doctor to take away from your appointment and use at any NZTA agency.  Drs can also file the same online.


The first page you fill out by ticking or filling in the boxes for:

  • Reason for medical certificate
  • Licence class(es)
  • Endorsement type
  • Personal details

Then you sign it at the bottom.


Pages 2-4 are for the doctor to complete.  Page 2 covers your hearing, and questions about whether you have had any of the following medical conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Mental disorders
  • Muscular/skeletal disorder/Locomotor conditions
  • Neurological and related conditions
  • Visual problems
  • Medications
  • Other disorders
  • Epilepsy/seizures or blackout


There is a space for comments and the attachment of any relevant specialist reports on page 3.

On the rear, are eye sight checks and a summary that the doctor signs.


Oddly pages 2 and 3 can be sealed together by the doctor; and presumably the form may be processed based solely on pages 1 (application details) and 4 (eyesight and summary) unless there is reason to recommend conditions on the license being applied for or further assessment is needed.


For those interested in the nitty gritty details, here is the Medical aspects of fitness to drive: a guide for medical practioners that the doctor signs they have complied with.


Thankfully after you have submitted yourself to the initial medical examination, you are only required to make a declaration every 5-10 years depending on the reason for your application, that nothing has changed; otherwise it's back to the doctor for clearance.

17 February 2015


A pre-journey safety check of your vehicle is not a legal requirement but certainly a logical one.

Every vehicle owner is responsible to keep their automobile's condition at a warrantable/certifiable standard even between official checks.


Have you heard of the TWIRL acronym for cars?

Check your:

  • Tyres
  • Windscreens, wipers and mirrors
  • Indicators
  • Rust
  • Lights


The NZTA also have another quick on-the-road check too


Failure to keep your heavy vehicle certifiable can mean hefty fines; and if your unit is commercial, will affect your Operator Rating System (ORS) rating too.

ORS is a voluntary system for goods service, passenger service and vehicle recovery vehicles that gives a 1 - 5 star rating depending upon any faults found during COF or roadside inspections; and/or traffic offenses / infringements in a 24-month period.


Road-side inspections (for all drivers) are carried out by the Police, and usually focus on specific initiatives.

As car drivers most will be familiar with breath alcohol tests, WOF and tyre checks, and car registration / driver's license verification.


For a motorhome that is a heavy vehicle, you can expect the following may also be included (where applicable):

  • Road User Charges (RUC)
  • Log book
  • Safety belts
  • Certificate of Fitness (COF)
  • Steering
  • Cab
  • Chassis
  • Lighting
  • Body work

While not specifically for mobile homes, what I did find in my travels are a couple of colourful 1-page pre-trip inspection guides to make the process easier: one for buses and the other trucks.  


The truck one applies to the majority of motorhomes built on a truck body, but still falls a little short if you consider sleeper (not just passenger) safety - the obvious concern being gas transport & inhalation.

Mobile home owners also need to be more aware to check for rust under carriage and around sills as we tend to take our vehicles sea-ward more often than a commercial truck/bus and they are affected by the salt air.  

The best way to do this is to find a heavy vehicle self-service washing facility with a bay underneath where you can steam clean the carriage and get under with a torch to have a look around.  There are truck cleaning companies (eg Clean Co) who offer a top clean and bottom steam service but it does add up quickly.  On the other hand it's good to know that a regular clean for a motorhome will only set you back around $40 + GST.

02 December 2014


All this talk about RUCs and diesel led me to do some more research into a side-interest I've had of fueling a vehicle on used vegetable oil - think takeaways on wheels.

Yes, there is a small movement in the United States of America in particular to partially convert vehicles to run on both diesel and vegetable oil, but I am only aware of a few light vehicles being run on it in New Zealand.

It's nothing new, Diesel himself was writing about using vegetable oil as far back as 1912, when the French government suggested running an engine on peanut oil. 

I do wonder though whether it would induce irrepressible cravings for those good old Kiwi greasies!?  You could perhaps scent the oil and ooze aromas of chocolate, liquorice, jellybeans, or pineapple chunks instead as you travelled through the city and countryside - a confectioner's marketing dream.


Back to fundamentals...

A conversion involves fitting a secondary tank (although some installations swap the tanks over thereby using the main tank for the oil and a smaller secondary tank for the 'back-up diesel'), filling entrance, hoses, heating elements, and a few other bits and pieces.  

When you start your vehicle you start it on diesel until the oil in the tank is heated enough, press a button to switch it over, and hey presto you are cruising on canola or whatever your preference is.  When you have almost arrived at your destination you switch back to diesel for a bit to flush out the lines.

There is the extra effort required in hunting and gathering your ingredients - approaching a restaurant or takeaways that would otherwise pay to have their waste oil removed from their premises.  Transferring that into your holding container - this can be a messy business; then into your fuel tank after filtering.  [Sometimes you can skip the middle step and put the oil into the vehicle tank but it still needs to go through a process of filtering at some point - it depends on how your system is set up.]


Conversion of a light vehicle (under 3500kg) requires an inspection by a Low Vehicle Volume Technician.  These are usually people who look at sports cars, cars that have been lowered, or had improvements to make them more efficient over and above your regular off-the-factory-line automobile.  The fees start at $500 and go up from there.  After inspection they order a metal plate be made and fitted to your vehicle that a WOF/COF agent will need to see each time your vehicle needs it's regular road-worthiness testing.

Low Vehicle Volume Technical Association

NZTA have information on their website for light vehicles about CNG and LPG conversion but no other fuel sources; so I guess it comes down to a case-by-case basis and the individual discretion of the technician 


As far as converting heavy vehicles (anything over 3500kg) is concerned NZTA's preliminary advice is that a change to the fuel system would need to be inspected by a Heavy Vehicle Certifying Engineer (pdf list).  

Different certifiers are allowed to inspect subject to their different areas of expertise.  These areas are the codes in the last column of that table which are explained on the Heavy Vehicle Engineers website.  None of which are specifically 'fuel systems'.  The closest one gets is HVEC being engine transmission.

The difference in this process is that you are best to contact the certifier prior to starting any work as they will need to inspect before, during and after a change has been made.  Then they will issue a LT400 paper certificate (instead of the metal plate mentioned above for light vehicles) which you lodge with any heavy vehicle testing station (CoF agent) for loading onto the NZTA Landata database.  

So far it doesn't look as if there are any widely-publicised guidelines for heavy transport fuel conversions.  Has one even been done in New Zealand?  You would definitely want to know that you had a chance to be approved prior to installation as you don't want to go to all the cost, time and effort to have it declined.  Watch this space as we update the post with further information as it comes to hand.


One of the overseas veggie fuel system suppliers that we contacted, Golden Fuel Systems recommended that overseas customers (given the specifications we were enquiring about) purchase a tankless system as this would be less expensive to freight, and source a locally-made tank.  The question would be finding a knowledgeable installer.

It seems that for about NZ$4000, plus installation, and certification ($500+) you could convert your vehicle to run on veggie grease.

The real question is 'how easy would it be to source vegetable oil around NZ to fuel the vehicle after conversion?' and 'would getting it remain free?'.