In South Africa, a road-based public transport service can only be operated by a person if s/he is the holder of a public operating licence. This applies to taxi drivers, bus drivers or any other driver who transports people on the road in return for payment.

An interesting topic recently is the question of whether these operating licenses can be sold or hired. Although there are strict guidelines in law, not everyone is aware of the procedures to follow and what is required of them.

What is an operating licence?

  • An operating licence authorises a person to use a specific vehicle for the purposes of road-based public transport services. For example, if a person owns more than one taxi, s/he must have an operating licence for each taxi.
  • The operating licence will reflect the details of the person who is allowed to operate the public transport service, as well as the details of the vehicle it is issued for.

Can an operating licence be transferred?

  • The National Land Transport Act 5 of 2009 (“Act”) allows for the transfer of an operating license from one person to another through making a formal application and following the correct procedures. 
  • If the person who wants to take over the operating licence applies for the transfer of it, s/he must have the written consent of the current holder of the operating licence.
  • If the current holder has passed away, then the consent of the holder’s executor (person responsible for the administration of the deceased estate) must be obtained.

What is needed to apply for a transfer?

  • The application requirements for the transfer of an operating license require the submission of the following documents:


Application form

Can be downloaded from the Department of Transport’s website.  Can also be obtained at the offices of the National Public Transport Regulator, a Provincial Regulatory Entity or an applicable Municipality.

Proof of payment for administration fee

An administration fee of R300 must be paid per application per vehicle. Examples of proof of payment includes receipt from the bank used to process payment or from the regulatory entity where payment was physically paid.

Tax clearance certificate

This information can be obtained from SARS.

Statements of oath

Such as a statement to confirm compliance with the duties of an operator and a statement to confirm compliance with labour laws in respect of drivers employed by the operator. Statement may be completed in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths (such as a police official or attorney).

Proof of insurance

Such as public liability insurance (copy of proof can be obtained from the relevant insurance company).

Certified copies of the following:

  • RSA identity document  / company registration certificate.
  • Company proxy letter and identity document of the proxy.
  • Existing operating licences.
  • Vehicle licence disc and road worthy certificate.
  • Registration certificate of the vehicle.
  • Service records/plan and/or maintenance plan of the vehicle.
  • Proof of operation of public transfer services, such as recent invoices or itineraries.
  • Business plan (if more than 10 vehicles).
  • If operator is dead, death certificate and letter of authority/executorship.
  • Relevant B-BBEE documents, if applicable.

Where must an application be made?

  • The main regulating agency is the National Public Transport Regulator (“NPTR”) and oversees public transport in South Africa.
  • Depending on the type of public transport service to which the operating licence applies, an application for the transfer must be made at the following entities:
    • NPTR: for interprovincial (transfer between different provinces) or tourist services.
    • Municipality: for intra-provincial (transfer within one province) services.
    • Provincial Regulatory Entity: any other type of service not mentioned above.
  • For more information, the NPTR can be contacted at:

Can an operating licence be hired?

  • The Act states that the authority conferred by an operating licence may not be hired.  
  • This means that a transaction hiring out an operating licence is invalid and has no legal force.

Can an operating licence be sold?

  • The Act makes it clear that the transfer of the license is permitted if the correct procedures are followed, however, it is silent on whether compensation may be received for such a transfer.
  • In Matshabe v Sobi and Others (1147/2015) (2015) ZAFSHC 210 (5 November 2015), there was a sale agreement between the parties that included the transfer of the vehicle and the operating license. The seller disputed that the operating licence formed part of the sale. However, the court directed the seller to give written consent to the buyer in order to transfer of the taxi operating licence. This confirmed that the sale of an operating license is permitted, provided that the correct procedures are followed to transfer the operating licence.

Updated: February 2021