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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Articles About Transportation Law

Department of Transportation by State

Transportation Law - US

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

    Their continuing mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system.

  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

    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.

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (49 U.S.C. 113). Formerly a part of the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. Activities of the Administration contribute to ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through strong enforcement of safety regulations.

  • Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

    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.

  • Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

    The FTA supports locally planned and operated public mass transit systems throughout the United States.

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

    Mission: Save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity.

  • US Department of Transportation

    The mission of the Department 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.

Transportation Law - Europe

  • Activities of the European Uniom - Transport

    Open frontiers and affordable transport have given Europeans unprecedented levels of personal mobility. Goods are shipped rapidly and efficiently from factory to customer, often in different countries. The European Union has contributed by opening national markets to competition and by removing physical and technical barriers to free movement.

  • EU Transportation Law

    Transport is one of the Community's foremost common policies. It is governed by Title V (Articles 70 to 80) of the Treaty establishing the European Community. Since the Rome Treaty's entry into force in 1958, this policy has been focused on eliminating borders between Member States and to therefore contribute to the free movement of individuals and of goods. Its principal aims are to complete the internal market, ensure sustainable development, extend transport networks throughout Europe, maximise use of space, enhance safety and promote international cooperation.

  • European Commission - Mobility and Transport

    Well-functioning passenger and freight links are vital for European undertakings and citizens. EU transport policies aim at fostering clean, safe and efficient travel throughout Europe, underpinning the internal market of goods and the right of citizens to travel freely throughout the EU

Transportation Law - International

  • ABA - International Transportation Committee

    The work of Committee members addresses a wide range of international transportation issues affecting the transportation of goods by air, sea, road, rail or intermodal service. Committee projects and discussions, which are open to all committee members, focus on private international law and public international law to the extent both aspects of international law form an integral part of the international and national system of laws, regulations and agreements governing international transportation.

  • International Air Transport Association (IATA)

    IATA is an international trade body, created over 60 years ago by a group of airlines. Today, IATA represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of scheduled international air traffic. The organization also represents, leads and serves the airline industry in general.

  • International Association of Public Transport (UITP)

    The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) is the international network for public transport authorities and operators, policy decision-makers, scientific institutes and the public transport supply and service industry. We cover all modes of public transport: metro, bus, light rail, regional and suburban rail, and waterborne transport.

  • International MultiModal Transport Association (IMMTA)

    The objectives of the International Multimodal Transport Association are: * to act as a catalyst for the exchange of ideas and information on modern trade and multimodal transport technologies and logistics, including implications for the environment and development, and to arrange meetings thereon; * to act as a pool of experts on multimodal transport issues.

  • International Road Transport Union (IRU)

    The IRU, through its national associations, represents the entire road transport industry world-wide. It speaks for the operators of coaches, taxis and trucks, from large transport fleets to driver-owners. In all international bodies that make decisions affecting road transport, the IRU acts as the industry's advocate. By working for the highest professional standards, the IRU improves the safety record and environmental performance of road transport and ensures the mobility of people and goods. Among its practical services to the industry, the IRU is international guarantor of the TIR carnet system under which trucks are sealed by customs upon departure and can cross several borders without further checks until they reach their destinations.

  • International Transportation Management Association (ITMA)

    Based in Houston, Texas, and chartered by the State of Texas, the International Transportation Management Association (“ITMA”) is a member-driven organization for companies and people that are involved or interested in international transportation logistics.

Organizations Related to Transportation Law

  • American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA)

    The American Association of Port Authorities is a trade association which represents more than 160 public port authorities in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America

  • American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA)

    Over 1,600 ATSSA members provide the majority of features, services and devices used to make our nation's roadways safer.

  • American Trucking Association (ATA)

    The mission of the American Trucking Associations, Inc., is: to serve and represent the interests of the trucking industry with one united voice; to influence in a positive manner Federal and State governmental actions; to advance the trucking industry’s image, efficiency, competitiveness, and profitability; to provide educational programs and industry research; to promote safety and security on our nation’s highways and among our drivers; and to strive for a healthy business environment.

  • Community Transportation Association of America

    A society that now includes a growing population of seniors needs new and expanded community transportation alternatives. Communities with staggering air quality problems and ground congestion need improved public and community transportation alternatives. Areas and communities that have been abandoned or which are in decline need public and community transportation options as part of their renewal efforts.

  • National Industrial Transportation League

    The National Industrial Transportation League was established in 1907 to represent shippers in their dealings with various regulatory bodies.

  • National Safety Council (NCS)

    Mission: To educate and influence people to prevent accidental injury and death.

  • Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration Office

    The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS) is the Federal safety authority for ensuring the safe transport of hazardous materials (hazmat) by air, rail, highway, and water, with the exception of bulk transportation of hazmat by vessel. OHMS promulgates a national safety program to minimize the risks to life and property inherent in commercial transportation of hazardous materials.

  • Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System

    The Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System offers company safety data to industry and the public over the internet. Access is provided free of charge to the Company Snapshot, a concise electronic record of a company’s identification, size, commodity information, and safety record, including the safety rating (if any), a roadside out-of-service inspection summary, and crash information. The company snapshot is available via an ad-hoc query (one carrier at a time).

  • Transportation Association of Canada (TAC)

    The Transportation Association of Canada is a national association with a mission to promote the provision of safe, secure, efficient, effective and environmentally and financially sustainable transportation services in support of Canada's social and economic goals.

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