Introduction: Department Overview

DOT has statutory responsibility for a wide range of regulations. For example, DOT regulates safety in the aviation, motor carrier, railroad, motor vehicle, commercial space, transit, and pipeline transportation areas. The Department also regulates aviation consumer and economic issues, and provides financial assistance and writes the necessary implementing rules for programs involving highways, airports, mass transit, the maritime industry, railroads, and motor transportation and vehicle safety. Finally, DOT has responsibility for developing policies that implement a wide range of regulations that govern programs such as acquisition and grants management, access for people with disabilities, environmental protection, energy conservation, information technology, occupational safety and health, property asset management, seismic safety, security, and the use of aircraft and vehicles. The Department carries out its responsibilities through the Office of the Secretary (OST) and the following operating administrations (OAs): Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA); Federal Railroad Administration (FRA); Federal Transit Administration (FTA); Maritime Administration (MARAD); National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; (PHMSA); and St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC).

The Department's Regulatory Philosophy and Initiatives

The Department's highest priority is safety. To achieve our safety goals responsibly and in accordance with principles of good governance, we embrace a regulatory philosophy that emphasizes transparency, stakeholder engagement, and regulatory restraint. Our goal is to allow the public to understand how we make decisions, which necessarily includes being transparent in the way we measure the risks, costs, and benefits of engaging in-or deciding not to engage in-a particular regulatory action. It is our policy to provide an opportunity for public comment on such actions to all interested stakeholders. Above all, transparency and meaningful engagement mandate that regulations should be straightforward, clear, and accessible to any interested stakeholder.

At DOT, transparency and stakeholder engagement take a number of different forms. For example, we publish a monthly report on our website that provides a summary and the status for all significant rulemakings that DOT currently has pending or has issued recently ( This report provides the public with easy access to information about the Department's regulatory activities that can be used to locate other publicly-available information in the Department's regulatory docket at, or in the Federal Register.

We also seek public input through direct engagement. For example, we recently published a request asking the public to help us identify obstacles to infrastructure projects, Transportation Infrastructure: Notice of Review of Policy, Guidance, and Regulation, 82 FR 26734 (June 8, 2017). We also published another notice requesting the public to help us identify rules that are good candidates for repeal, replacement, suspension, or modification, or other deregulatory action, 82 FR 45750 (October 2, 2017). Finally, DOT has a long history of partnering with stakeholders to develop recommendations and consensus standards through advisory committees. Some committees meet regularly to provide advice, while others are convened on an ad hoc basis to address specific needs. Each OA, as well as OST, has at least one standing advisory committee.

The Department's regulatory philosophy also embraces the notion that there should be no more regulations than necessary. We emphasize consideration of non-regulatory solutions and have rigorous processes in place for continual reassessment of existing regulations. These processes provide that regulations and other agency actions are periodically reviewed and, if appropriate, are revised to ensure that they continue to meet the needs for which they were originally designed, and that they remain cost-effective and cost-justified.

For example, DOT regularly makes a conscientious effort to review its rules in accordance with the Department's 1979 Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034, Feb. 26, 1979), Executive Order (E.O.) 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review), Executive Order 13563 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review), and section 610 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The Department follows a repeating 10-year plan for the review of existing regulations. Information on the results of these reviews is included in the Unified Agenda.

In addition, through three new Executive orders, President Trump directed agencies to further scrutinize their regulations and other agency actions. On January 30, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13771, Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs. Under Section 2(a) of the Executive order, unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it must identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed. On February 24, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13777, enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda. Under this Executive order, each agency must establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force (RRTF) to evaluate existing regulations, and make recommendations for their repeal, replacement, or modification. On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, requiring agencies to review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and other similar agency actions that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.

In response to the mandate in Executive Order 13777, the Department formed an RRTF consisting of senior career and non-career leaders, which has already conducted extensive reviews of existing regulations, and identified a number of rules to be repealed, replaced, or modified. The RRTF continues to conduct monthly reviews across all OAs to identify appropriate deregulatory actions. The RRTF also works to ensure that any new regulatory action is rigorously vetted and non-regulatory alternatives are considered. Further information on the RRTF can be found online at: The priorities identified below reflect the RRTF's work to implement the Department's focus on reducing burdens and improving the effectiveness of all regulations.

The Department's Regulatory Priorities

Four fundamental principles - safety, innovation, enabling investment in infrastructure, and reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens - are our top priorities. These priorities are grounded in our national interest in maintaining U.S. global leadership in safety, innovation, and economic growth. To accomplish our regulatory goals, we must create a regulatory environment that fosters growth in new and innovative industries without burdening them with unnecessary restrictions. At the same time, safety remains our highest priority; we must remain focused on managing safety risks and be sure that we do not regress from the successes already achieved. Accordingly, the regulatory plan laid out below reflects a careful balance that emphasizes the Department's priority in fostering innovation while at the same time meeting the challenges of maintaining a safe, reliable, and sustainable transportation system.

Safety. The success of our national transportation system requires us to remain focused on safety as our highest priority. Our regulatory plan reflects our commitment to safety through a balanced regulatory approach. Our goals are to deliver safety more efficiently and at a lower cost to the public by looking to market-driven solutions first.

Innovation. Every mode of transportation is affected by transformative technology. Whether we are talking about automation, unmanned vehicles, or other emerging technologies, we are looking forward to new and promising frontiers that will change the way we move on the ground, in water, through the air, and into space. Our regulatory plan reflects the Administration's commitment to fostering innovation by lifting barriers to entry and enabling innovative and exciting new uses of transportation technology.

Enabling investment in Infrastructure. The safe and efficient movement of goods and passengers requires us not just to maintain, but to improve our national transportation infrastructure. But that cannot happen without changes to the way we plan, fund, and approve projects. Accordingly, our Regulatory Plan prioritizes regulatory action that streamlines the approval process and facilitates more efficient investment in infrastructure. To maintain global leadership and foster economic growth, this must be one of our highest priorities.

Reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens. Finally, our Regulatory Plan reflects our commitment to reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens. Our priority rules include some deregulatory actions that we identified after a comprehensive review of all of the Department's regulations. The Plan also reflects our policy of thoroughly considering non-regulatory solutions before taking regulatory action. When regulatory intervention is necessary, however, it is our policy to rely data-driven and risk-based analysis to craft the most effective and least burdensome solution to the problem.

This Regulatory Plan identifies the 15 pending rulemakings that reflect the Department's commitment to safety, innovation, infrastructure, and reducing burdens. For example:

  • FAA will focus on regulatory activity to enable, safely and efficiently, the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS), and to enable expanded commercial space activities.

  • NHTSA will focus on reducing regulatory barriers to technology innovation, including the development of autonomous vehicles, and improving regulations on fuel efficiency.

  • FRA will focus on providing industry members regulatory relief through a rulemaking that allows for alternative compliance with FRA's Passenger Equipment Safety Standards for the operation of Tier III passenger equipment.

  • FTA will focus on establishing Private Investment Project Procedures to encourage greater use of public-private partnerships and private investment in public transportation capital projects, and continue to focus on its statutorily-mandated efforts to establish a comprehensive Public Transportation Safety Program to improve the safety of public transportation systems.

  • PHMSA will focus on pipeline safety as well as the movement of hazardous materials across multiple modes of transportation.

    At the same time, all OAs are prioritizing their regulatory and deregulatory actions accordance with E.O.s 13771 and 13563, to make sure they are providing the highest level of safety while eliminating outmoded and ineffective regulations and streamlining other existing regulations in an effort to promote economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation. Since each OA has its own area of focus, we summarize the regulatory priorities of each below.

    Office of the Secretary of Transportation

    OST oversees the regulatory process for the Department. OST implements the Department's regulatory policies and procedures and is responsible for ensuring the involvement of senior officials in regulatory decision making. Through the Office of the General Counsel, OST is also responsible for ensuring that the Department complies with the Administrative Procedure Act, Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review), Executive Order 13563 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review), Executive Order 13771 (Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs), Executive Order 13777 (Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda), Executive Order 13873 (Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth), DOT's Regulatory Policies and Procedures, and other legal and policy requirements affecting rulemaking. In addition, OST has the lead role in matters concerning aviation economic rules, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and rules that affect multiple elements of the Department.

    OST provides guidance and training regarding compliance with regulatory requirements and process for personnel throughout the Department. OST also plays an instrumental role in the Department's efforts to improve our economic analyses; risk assessments; regulatory flexibility analyses; other related analyses; retrospective reviews of rules; and data quality, including peer reviews. The Office of the General Counsel is the lead office that works with the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to get Administration approval to move forward with significant rules.

    OST also leads and coordinates the Department's response to OMB's intergovernmental review of other agencies' significant rulemaking documents and to Administration and congressional proposals that concern the regulatory process. The Office of the General Counsel works closely with representatives of other agencies, OMB, the White House, and congressional staff to provide information on how various proposals would affect the ability of the Department to perform its safety, infrastructure, and other missions.

    In Fiscal Year 2018, OST will continue its efforts to help coordinate the activities of several OAs that advance various departmental efforts that support the Administration's initiatives on promoting safety, enabling innovation, investing in infrastructure, and reducing regulatory burdens. OST will also continue to provide significant support to the RRTF's efforts to implement the Department's regulatory reform policies.

    Federal Aviation Administration

    FAA is charged with safely and efficiently operating and maintaining the most complex aviation system in the world. Destination 2025, an FAA initiative that captures the agency's vision of transforming the Nation's aviation system by 2025, has proven to be an effective tool for pushing the agency to think about longer-term aspirations; FAA has established a vision that defines the agency's priorities for the next five years.

    FAA has identified four major strategic initiatives where it will focus its efforts: 1) Risk-based Decision Making - Build on safety management principles to proactively address emerging safety risk by using consistent, data-informed approaches to make smarter, system-level, risk-based decisions; 2) NAS Initiative -- Lay the foundation for the NAS of the future by achieving prioritized NextGen benefits, enabling the safe and efficient integration of new entrants (including UAS, supersonic aircraft, and commercial space flights) and deliver more efficient, streamlined air traffic management services; 3) Global Leadership -- Improve safety, air traffic efficiency, and environmental sustainability across the globe through an integrated, data-driven approach that shapes global standards, enhances collaboration and harmonization, and better targets FAA resources and efforts; and 4) Workforce of the Future - Prepare FAA's human capital for the future, by identifying, recruiting, and training a workforce with the leadership, technical, and functional skills to ensure the U.S. has the world's safest and most productive aviation sector.

    During Fiscal Year 2018, FAA's regulatory priorities will be to enable transformative UAS and commercial space technologies by publishing two notices of proposed rulemaking (Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People, 2120-AK85 and Orbital Debris Mitigation Methods for Launch Vehicle Upper Stages, 2120-AK81), addressing the previously published Interim Final Rule on Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft (2120-AK82), and publishing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on UAS security-related issues (Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, (2120-AL26). The Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People is the long-awaited next regulatory step towards integrating UAS into the NAS. This rule would allow certain routine small UAS operations over people without a waiver or exemption. The Orbital Debris Mitigation Methods for Launch Vehicle Upper Stages proposal would update current regulations to reduce the amount of orbital debris that could potentially interfere with existing or future activities in orbit.

    FAA's top deregulatory priorities will be to issue two final rules. Transport Airplane Fuel Tank and System Lightning Protection, (2120-AK24) would amend certain airworthiness regulations regarding lightning protection of fuel tanks and systems, providing cost savings to industry stakeholders. Rotorcraft Pilot Compartment View (2120-AK91) would revise the testing requirements for pilot compartment view to alleviate the cost of the flight test and reduce administrative burdens on affected applicants.

    Finally, FAA will focus on two rules responding to Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 requirements to address airline safety and pilot training improvements. The first would implement a statutory mandate to establishment an electronic pilot record database that air carriers would use for pre-employment checks on pilots (Pilot Records Database, 2120-AK31). The second rule would implement improvements to pilot training and professional development programs to address mentoring, leadership, and professional development of flight crewmembers (Professional Development, (2120-AJ87).

    More information about these rules can be found in the DOT Unified Agenda.

    Federal Highway Administration

    FHWA carries out the Federal highway program in partnership with State and local agencies to meet the Nation's transportation needs. FHWA's mission is to improve continually the quality and performance of our Nation's highway system and its intermodal connectors.

    Consistent with this mission, in Fiscal Year 2018, the FHWA will continue with ongoing regulatory initiatives in support of its surface transportation programs. It will also work to implement legislation in the most cost-effective way possible. Finally, it will pursue regulatory reform in areas where project development can be streamlined or accelerated, duplicative requirements can be consolidated, recordkeeping requirements can be reduced or simplified, and the decision-making authority of our State and local partners can be increased.

    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

    The mission of FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial trucks and buses. A strong regulatory program is a cornerstone of FMCSA's compliance and enforcement efforts to advance this safety mission. FMCSA develops new and more effective safety regulations based on three core priorities: Raising the safety bar for entry into the industry, maintaining high standards of safety performance, and removing high-risk behavior. In addition to Agency-directed regulations, FMCSA develops regulations mandated by Congress, through legislation such as the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) and the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Acts. FMCSA regulations establish minimum safety standards for motor carriers, commercial drivers, commercial motor vehicles, and State agencies receiving certain motor carrier safety grants and issuing commercial drivers' licenses.

    FMCSA's regulatory efforts for FY 2018 will focus on efforts to streamline the grants program, remove regulatory burdens, and ease the transition into a transportation career for veterans. In addition, FMCSA will continue to coordinate efforts on the development of autonomous vehicle technologies and review existing regulations to identify changes that might be needed.

    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

    The mission of NHTSA is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic costs due to roadway crashes. The statutory responsibilities of NHTSA relating to motor vehicles include reducing the number, and mitigating the effects of motor vehicle crashes and related fatalities and injuries; providing safety performance information to aid prospective purchasers of vehicles, child restraints, and tires; and improving automotive fuel efficiency. NHTSA pursues policies that enable safety technologies and encourage the development of non-regulatory approaches when feasible in meeting its statutory mandates. NHTSA issues new standards and regulations or amendments to existing standards and regulations when appropriate. It ensures that regulatory alternatives reflect a careful assessment of the problem and a comprehensive analysis of the benefits, costs, and other impacts associated with the proposed regulatory action. Finally, NHTSA considers alternatives consistent with principles in applicable executive orders.

    NHTSA's regulatory priorities for FY 2018 include continuing to coordinate efforts on the development of autonomous vehicles and reducing regulatory barriers to technology innovation. NHTSA also plans to issue several rulemakings and other actions that increase safety and reduce economic burden, including some in response to statutory mandates. Most prominently, NHTSA anticipates issuing a request for comment on the barriers in existing regulation to deployment of automated vehicles, particularly those that affect vehicles that may have innovative designs. In addition, working with the Environmental Protection Agency, NHTSA plans to propose fuel efficiency standards for light vehicle model years (MYs) 2022 thru 2025 (Passenger Car and Light Truck Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards MYs 2022-2025, RIN 2127-AL76). More information about these rules can be found in the DOT Unified Agenda.

    Federal Railroad Administration

    FRA exercises regulatory authority over all areas of railroad safety and, where feasible, incorporates flexible performance standards. To foster an environment for collaborative rulemaking, FRA established the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). The purpose of RSAC is to develop consensus recommendations for regulatory action on issues FRA brings to it. Even in situations where RSAC consensus is not achieved, FRA benefits from receiving input from RSAC. In situations where RSAC participation would not be useful (e.g., a statutory mandate that leaves FRA with no discretion), FRA fulfils its regulatory role without RSAC's input. The RSAC consultation process results in regulations that are likely to be better understood, more widely accepted, more cost-beneficial, and more correctly applied, because of stakeholder participation.

    FRA's current regulatory program reflects a number of pending proceedings to satisfy mandates resulting from the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA08), the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA), and the FAST Act, as well as actions under its general safety rulemaking authority, actions supporting a high-performing passenger rail network, and actions addressing the safe and effective movement of energy products.

    FRA's regulatory priority for Fiscal Year 2018 will be to continue its work on a final rule containing RSAC-supported actions that advance high-performing passenger rail by providing alternative ways to comply with passenger rail equipment standards (Passenger Equipment Safety Standards for the operation of Tier III passenger equipment, RIN 2130-AC46). This rule is expected to ease regulatory burdens on certain passenger rail operations which would allow the development of advanced technology and increase safety benefits. More information about this rule can be found in the DOT Unified Agenda.

    Federal Transit Administration

    FTA provides financial and technical assistance to local public transit systems, including buses, subways, light rail, commuter rail, trolleys and ferries. FTA also oversees safety measures and helps develop next-generation technology research. FTA's regulatory activities implement the laws that apply to recipients' uses of Federal funding and the terms and conditions of FTA grant awards.

    In addition to the Department-wide goals described above, FTA policy regarding regulations is to:

  • Ensure the safety of public transportation systems;

  • Provide maximum benefit to the Nation's mobility through the connectivity of transportation infrastructure;

  • Provide maximum local discretion;

  • Ensure the most productive use of limited Federal resources;

  • Protect taxpayer investments in public transportation; and

  • Incorporate principles of sound management into the grant management process.

    In 2012, through MAP-21, Congress expanded FTA's safety regulatory role by directing the Secretary to establish a comprehensive Public Transportation Safety Program to improve the safety of all public transportation systems that receive certain FTA funding. In December 2015, Congress passed the FAST Act, which reauthorized the PTSP and provided the Secretary with additional authority to ensure the safety of rail transit systems. This new authority requires implementation through the rulemaking process.

    FTA's regulatory priorities for Fiscal Year 2018 are the Private Investment Project Procedures rulemaking (2132-AB27) and the Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan final rule (2132-AB23), which is one element of the Public Transportation Safety Program. The Private Investment Project Procedures rulemaking would establish new, experimental procedures to encourage greater use of public-private partnerships and private investment in public transportation capital projects. Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 5329(d), FTA must issue a rule requiring operators of public transportation systems that receive financial assistance under Chapter 53 to develop and certify Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans. On February 5, 2016, FTA published a notice of proposed rulemaking outlining the requirements for Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans. FTA will be looking to finalize this rule in Fiscal Year 2018. More information about these rules can be found in the DOT Unified Agenda.

    Maritime Administration

    MARAD administers Federal laws and programs to improve and strengthen the maritime transportation system to meet the economic, environmental, and security needs of the Nation. To that end, MARAD's efforts are focused upon ensuring a strong American presence in the domestic and international trades and to expanding maritime opportunities for American businesses and workers.

    MARAD's regulatory objectives and priorities reflect the agency's responsibility for ensuring the availability of water transportation services for American shippers and consumers and, in times of war or national emergency, for the U.S. armed forces. Major program areas include the following: Maritime Security, Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement, National Defense Reserve Fleet and the Ready Reserve Force, Cargo Preference, Maritime Guaranteed Loan Financing, United States Merchant Marine Academy, Mariner Education and Training Support, Deepwater Port Licensing, and Port and Intermodal Development. Additionally, MARAD administers the Small Shipyard Grants Program through which equipment and technical skills training are provided to America's maritime workforce, with the aim of helping businesses to compete in the global marketplace while creating well-paying jobs at home.

    MARAD's regulatory priorities for Fiscal Year 2018 will be to continue to support the objectives and priorities described above in addition to identifying new opportunities for deregulatory action.

    Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

    PHMSA has responsibility for rulemaking under two programs. Through the Associate Administrator for the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS), PHMSA administers regulatory programs under Federal hazardous materials transportation law. Through the Associate Administrator for the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), PHMSA administers regulatory programs under the Federal pipeline safety laws. In addition, both offices administer programs under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

    PHMSA will continue to work toward improving safety related to transportation of hazardous materials by all transportation modes, including pipeline, while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation. PHMSA will concentrate on the prevention of high-risk incidents identified through PHMSA's evaluation of transportation incident data. PHMSA will use all available Agency tools to assess data; evaluate alternative safety strategies, including regulatory strategies as necessary and appropriate; target enforcement efforts; and enhance outreach, public education, and training to promote safety outcomes.

    Further, PHMSA will continue to focus on streamlining its regulatory system and reducing regulatory burdens. PHMSA will evaluate existing rules to examine whether they remain justified; should be modified to account for changing circumstances and technologies; or should be streamlined or even repealed. PHMSA will continue to evaluate, analyze, and be responsive to petitions for rulemaking. PHMSA will review regulations, letters of interpretation, petitions for rulemaking, special permits, enforcement actions, approvals, international standards, and industry standards to identify inconsistencies, outdated provisions, and barriers to regulatory compliance.

    In Fiscal Year 2018, OHMS will focus on two priority rules. The first is designed to reduce risks related to the transportation of hazardous materials by rail. PHMSA aims to finalize a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Hazardous Materials: Oil Spill Response Plans and Information Sharing for High-Hazard Flammable Trains (2137-AF08), that sought comment on expanding the applicability of comprehensive oil spill response plans for crude oil trains and require railroads to share information about high-hazard flammable train operations with State and tribal emergency response commissions to improve community preparedness. The second rule is designed to reduce the risk of transporting lithium batteries by air by addressing the unique challenges they pose (Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Safety Provisions for Lithium Batteries Transported by Aircraft, 2137-AF20).

    OPS will focus on two pipeline rules. The first will finalize a proposal to change the regulations covering hazardous liquid onshore pipelines related to High Consequence Areas for integrity management protections, repair timeframes, and reporting for all hazardous liquid gathering lines (Pipeline Safety: Safety of Hazardous Liquid Pipelines, 2137-AE66). PHMSA also plans to seek public comment through an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that would provide regulatory relief to certain pipeline operators that experience a reduction in allowable operating pressure due to construction that has occurred in the area (Pipeline Safety: Class Location Requirements, 2137-AF29).