Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation (DOT) in the United States

Introduction to Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation, an executive department of the U.S. federal government, created by law in October 1966 and officially established in April 1967 by the combination of transportation agencies or functions formerly dispersed throughout the government. The purpose of the department is to promote and develop rapid, safe, efficient, and convenient transportation in the United States. It is administered by a secretary appointed by the president of the United States and approved by the United States Senate.” (1)

The Department of Transportation was established by act of October 15, 1966, as amended (49 U.S.C. 102 and 102 note), “to assure the coordinated, effective administration of the transportation programs of the Federal Government” and to develop “national transportation policies and programs conducive to the provision of fast, safe, efficient, and convenient transportation at the lowest cost consistent therewith.” It became operational in April 1967 and was comprised of elements transferred from eight other major departments and agencies.

U.S. Department of Transportation Purpose

The mission of the Department of Transportation is to ensure a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people.

The Department of Transportation establishes national transportation policy for
highway planning, and construction, motor carrier safety, urban mass transit, railroads,
aviation, and the safety of waterways, ports, highways, and pipelines.

Organizations within the the Department of Transportation include the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Maritime Administration.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation oversees approximately 55,000 employees and a budget of approximately $70 billion.

U.S. Department of Transportation in the International Business Landscape

Definition of U.S. Department of Transportation in the context of U.S. international business and public trade policy: Cabinet level department of the federal government that establishes the nation’s overall transportation policies.

Organizational Divisions

The department has ten major divisions (see more below):

  • The Federal Aviation Administration regulates air traffic and commerce in the United States.
  • The Federal Highway Administration is responsible for highway construction, administration, and safety.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration consolidates government support of rail transportation activities, advises the secretary on matters relating to rail transportation, and administers the federally owned Alaska Railroad.
  • The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. oversees activities relating to the St. Lawrence Seaway.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determines the causes of motor-vehicle accidents and makes recommendations to promote highway safety.
  • The Federal Transit Administration assists in the planning and development of improved mass transportation facilities and equipment.
  • The Maritime Administration carries out programs to aid in the development and operation of the U.S. merchant marine.
  • The Research and Special Programs Administration is responsible for rules governing pipeline safety and the safe transportation of hazardous materials, and it also conducts transportation research.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration works to prevent accidents related to commercial motor vehicles, such as trucks and buses.
  • The Bureau of Transportation Statistics compiles and analyzes information about the nation’s transportation system.


The Department of Transportation is administered by the Secretary of Transportation, who is the principal adviser to the President in all matters relating to Federal transportation programs.

Under Secretary

The Under Secretary for Policy serves as a principal policy adviser to the Secretary and provides leadership in policy development for the Department.

Aviation and International Affairs

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs has principal responsibility for the development, review, and coordination of policy for international transportation, and for development, coordination, and implementation of policy relating to economic regulation of the airline industry. The Offfice licenses U.S. and foreigncarriers to serve in international air transportation and conducts carrier fitness determinations for carriers serving the United States. The Office also participates in negotiations with foreign governments to develop multilateral and bilateral aviation and maritime policies on a wide range of international transportation and trade matters and to coordinate cooperative agreements for the exchange of scientific and technical information between nations. In addition to these responsibilities, the Office resolves complaints concerning unfair competitive practices in domestic and international air transportation, establishes international and intraAlaska mail rates, determines the disposition of requests for approval and immunization from the antitrust laws of international aviation agreements, and administers the essential air service program.

Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance

The Office ensures that the national and international drug and alcohol
policies and goals of the Secretary are developed and carried out in a
consistent, efficient, and effective manner within the transportation industries.
The Office provides expert advice, counsel, and recommendations to the
Secretary regarding drugs and alcohol as they pertain to the Department of
Transportation and testing within the transportation industry.

Intelligence, Security, and Emergency Response

The Office ensures development, coordination, and execution of plans
and procedures for the Department of Transportation to balance transportation
security requirements with safety, mobility, and economic needs of the
Nation through effective intelligence, security, preparedness, and emergency
response programs. The Office monitors the Nation’s transportation network on a
continuous basis; advises the Secretary on incidents affecting transportation
systems; provides leadership on national preparedness, response,
and transportation security matters; briefs the Secretary on intelligence
relevant to the transportation sector; performs the Department of Transportation’s National Response Framework Emergency Support Function responsibilities; coordinates
the Department of Transportation participation in emergency preparedness and response exercises under the National Training and Exercise Program; administers the Department of Transportation’s Continuity of Government and Continuity of Operations programs; and serves as the DOT representative for emergency planning for civil aviation support to NATO and other allies.

Transportation Policy

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy has principal
responsibility for analysis, development, articulation, and review of policies and
plans for all modes of transportation. The Office develops, coordinates, and
evaluates public policy on safety, energy, and environmental initiatives which
affect air, surface, marine, and pipeline transportation and maintains policy
and economic oversight of regulatory programs and legislative initiatives of the
Department. The Office also analyzes the economic and institutional implications
of current and emerging transportation policy issues, transportation infrastructure
finances, and new transportation technologies.

Finding the law: Department of Transportation in the U.S. Code

A collection of general and permanent laws relating to department of transportation, passed by the United States Congress, are organized by subject matter arrangements in the United States Code (U.S.C.; this label examines department of transportation topics), to make them easy to use (usually, organized by legal areas into Titles, Chapters and Sections). The platform provides introductory material to the U.S. Code, and cross references to case law. View the U.S. Code’s table of contents here.

Department of Transportation

In Legislation

Department of Transportation in the U.S. Code: Title 49, Subtitle I

The current, permanent, in-force federal laws regulating department of transportation are compiled in the United States Code under Title 49, Subtitle I. It constitutes “prima facie” evidence of statutes relating to Transportation (including department of transportation) of the United States. The reader can further narrow his/her legal research of the general topic (in this case, Department of Transportation of the US Code, including department of transportation) by chapter and subchapter.


Notes and References

Guide to Department of Transportation

In this Section

Federal Departments, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense (including Department of Defense Purpose, Department of Defense Organization, Department of Defense Liaison of Command and Department of Defense Supporting Agencies), Department of Education, Department of Energy (including Department of Energy Purpose, Department of Energy Organization and Department of Energy Research and Development), Department of Health and Human Services (including Department of Health and Human Services History and Department of Health and Human Services Agencies and Services), Department of Homeland Security (including Department of Homeland Security Organization and Functions, Department of Homeland Security Origins and Department of Homeland Security Supporting Agencies), Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice (including Department of Justice Functions, Department of Justice Structure and Department of Justice Associated Agencies), Department of Labor, Department of National Defence, Department of State (including Department of State Administration and Department of State Bureaus), Department of the Air Force, Department of the Army, Department of the Interior (including Department of the Interior Functions and Department of the Interior Principal Agencies), Department of the Navy, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs (including the Department of Veterans Affairs Service Categories, Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits Available and GI Bill of Rights) and Department of War.