Transportation Law

Guide to Transport Law

What is Transportation Law?

Transport or Transportation Law describes the body of law dealing with all forms of transportation. These laws derive from state, federal, and even local sources, and can apply very broadly at a transport system level or more narrowly to specific activities or things.

Common Forms of Transportation

When one thinks of transportation, their first thought may be of road vehicles like cars, trucks, and motorcycles. But transportation law also pertains to rail, water vessels, bicycles, airplanes, helicopters, and any other form of getting from one place to another. Similarly, the laws affecting transportation pertain not only to these modes of transit, but also to the infrastructure that supports them, such as roads, bridges, airports, trails, ports, etc.

Sources of Law and Regulations

The U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to pass laws regarding interstate commerce. As a result, travel between states is also within the bailiwick of the federal legislature. Many federal statutes govern different forms of transportation. These laws often create administrative agencies, or expand the authority of existing agencies, to administer these federal statutes. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) establishes overall transportation policies for the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in turn, is responsible for administering air travel, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provides certain safety guidelines and investigates mass transit accidents, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) administers rail travel, and so forth. These administrative agencies, in turn, pass their own regulations that further expand upon the laws governing interstate transit. The DOT also works with state and local authorities to help decide policies regarding highway planning, mass transit, safety of transportation facilities, and policies regarding oil and gas pipelines.

Each state is also authorized to pass laws and create administrative agencies governing transportation within its boundaries. As a result, each state has its own variant of a department of motor vehicles (commonly called a DMV). Additionally, each state uses its police forces to monitor individuals' compliance with these transportation laws, such as speed limits, safety equipment requirements, and rules regarding registration of planes, boats, and automobiles. Many state agencies may also be able to enact regulations regarding transportation within the state, such as insurance requirements for automobiles.

Transportation Lawyers

Transportation law firms specialize in such areas as regulatory compliance, cargo claims, freight charge collection, hazardous materials matters, commercial litigation, and various types of transportation related agreements and contractual disputes. To find a lawyer in your area that focuses on Transportation Law, visit our Law Firms page.

To consult Motor Vehicle laws and regulations in your State visit our Department of Motor Vehicles by State page. You can also find additional resources below.


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