What is the DOT?

HomeGlossary of fleet termsWhat is the DOT?

The DOT (or USDOT) is the United States Department of Transportation, a federal cabinet department of the U.S. government concerned with transportation. It was established in 1966 and began operating on April 1, 1967. It is governed by the United States Secretary of Transportation.

What is the role of the DOT?

Its mission is: “To serve the United States by ensuring 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, today and into the future.”

The DOT oversees a number of federal agencies that regulate transportation networks across the United States, including:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
  • Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
  • Maritime Administration (MARAD)
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
  • Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC)

There are three DOT agencies that regulate the nation’s roadways and the vehicles that travel on them:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

The NHTSA collates transportation statistics and is responsible for reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

The FHWA coordinates with state-level agencies to maintain and improve the National Highway System.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

The FMCSA’s primary aim is to improve the safety performance of commercial vehicles, (e.g., large trucks, buses) and minimize accidents across the United States trucking industry.

Commercial motor vehicle operators are required to register for a USDOT number and are subject to federal regulations and safety inspections managed by the FMCSA and other DOT agencies. Many commercial carriers use compliance software to automate their processes to make sure their drivers and vehicles are compliant with federal law at all times.

Read more about the FMCSA.

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