General description of the transport law

Transportation law is a broad field of law that encompasses federal and state laws. These laws deal with transportation infrastructure and all forms of road, rail, water, and air transportation.

The transportation law may apply to the following:

  • Surface vehicles such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, buses, and bicycles
  • Aircraft, such as airplanes, helicopters and drones
  • Vessels, such as boats, ships and cargo vessels
  • Railway systems, such as trains and subways
  • Infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, tracks, airports, ports of embarkation, and trails

Federal Transportation Act

Congress is authorized to regulate interstate commerce under the U.S. Constitution. This means that travel between states is subject to federal laws and regulations.

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is the agency that encompasses all federal transportation policies and regulations. DOT stated goals are to maintain the safety of travelers, increase national mobility, and support the national economy through the transportation system. The DOT oversees the various agencies that administer federal laws for the various transportation networks, for example:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is in charge of motor vehicle and highway safety rules and regulations.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration, which is in charge of regulating airports, air traffic and aircraft.
  • The Federal Highway Administration, which is responsible for the laws on commercial freight transportation and the maintenance and preservation of interstate highways, tunnels and bridges.
  • The Federal Transportation Vehicle Safety Administration, which is in charge of safety laws for large commercial vehicles.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration, which is in charge of regulating the safety and development of the U.S. railroad system.
  • The Federal Transportation Administration, which provides financial and technical assistance to local public transportation systems.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency that provides certain safety guidelines and investigates mass transit accidents, such as train and plane accidents. The agency works with major investigations throughout the U.S. and abroad. The NTSB uses research information to improve transportation safety. That why the NTSB findings from the accident (such as fault or probable cause) usually cannot be used as evidence in court.

State Transportation Law

States have the power to regulate transportation within their borders. They use their respective motor vehicle departments to regulate daily traffic rules. While all states share basic traffic rules, such as driving on the right side, there are other differences, such as:

  • speed limits,
  • certain security equipment requirements,
  • minimum insurance,
  • registration regulations for private and commercial vehicles.

How federal and state transportation law impacts Americans

Transportation laws keep Americans traveling safe and the transportation system moving. Federal standards for seat belts and airbags protect drivers and occupants of passenger vehicles. When a person returns from New York to Los Angeles, federal regulations ensure that the aircraft is well maintained and that air traffic is safe. Federal laws also regulate passenger train safety. They also set the amount of rest time that commercial truck drivers must take each day. State laws regulate such things as the speed of private and commercial traffic on highways, the registration of private and commercial vehicles, and the minimum insurance requirements for different vehicles.

Attorneys specializing in transportation law

Transportation law is a very broad field, so there are many types of attorneys in this area. The owner of a commercial fleet of interstate trucks may need legal advice from an attorney experienced in federal regulatory compliance. An automobile manufacturer may need legal advice on how to handle the recall of certain vehicles required by federal law. Many attorneys also appear at administrative hearings of state motor vehicle departments.

Speak Today with a Qualified Transportation Law Attorney

This article is intended to be useful and informative. But legal issues can become complicated and stressful. An attorney qualified in transportation law can attend to your particular legal needs, explain the law and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a qualified transportation law attorney near you to discuss your specific legal situation.