Federal Transportation Agencies

The major federal transportation agencies are:

  • U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • Federal Railroad Administration
  • Federal Transit Administration
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • National Transportation Safety Board


The U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) serves the U.S. by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the people.  As a cabinet-level organization of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, the DOT is led by a presidential appointee, the Secretary of Transportation.

The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) was established to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.  FAA strives to reach and achieve the next level of safety, efficiency, environmental responsibility, and global leadership.

The Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) is charged with the broad responsibility of ensuring that America’s roads and highways continue to be the safest and most technologically up-to-date.  FHWA has two major programs:

  • Federal-aid Highway Program
  • Federal Lands Highway (FLH) Program


The Federal-aid Highway Program provides federal financial resources and technical assistance to state and local governments for constructing, preserving, and improving the national highway system.  The Federal Lands Highway (FLH) Program provides funding for public roads and highways within federally owned lands and tribal lands that are not a state or local government responsibility.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) was established within the DOT on January 1, 2000.  Formerly a part of the Federal Highway Administration, the FMCSA’s primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.  The activities of FMCSA contribute to:

  • ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through strong enforcement of safety regulations;
  • targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers;
  • improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies;
  • strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards; and
  • increasing safety awareness.


The Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) was created by the DOT Act of 1966.  The purpose of FRA is to:

  • promulgate and enforce rail safety regulations;
  • administer railroad assistance programs;
  • conduct research and development in support of improved railroad safety and national rail transportation policy;
  • provide for the rehabilitation of Northeast Corridor rail passenger service; and
  • consolidate government support of rail transportation activities.


The Federal Transit Administration (“FTA”) is one of the operating administrations within the U.S. DOT.  It is located in Washington, DC and has 10 regional offices across the nation.  The transportation systems of FTA typically include buses, subways, light rail, commuter rail, streetcars, monorail, passenger ferry boats, inclined railways, and people movers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 to carry out safety programs previously administered by the National Highway Safety Bureau.  Specifically, the NHTSA directs the highway safety and consumer programs established by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, the Highway Safety Act of 1966, the 1972 Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act, and succeeding amendments to these laws.

The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) is an independent federal accident investigation agency.  Its mission is to determine the probable cause of transportation accidents and to formulate recommendations to improve safe transportation.

Inside Federal Transportation Agencies