What is the US Secretary of Transportation?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2019
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The United States Secretary of Transportation is the head of the Department of Transportation (DOT), an American government agency which deals with transportation-related matters. This agency was established in 1966 by an act of Congress, which split the Transportation Department from the Department of Commerce, creating an independent agency. Until 2003, the DOT also included the United States Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration, two agencies which were enfolded into the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

The US Secretary of Transportation is a member of the Presidential Cabinet, which means that he or she is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. As a general rule, the US Secretary of Transportation is replaced with each Presidential administration, with the President choosing a candidate who supports his or her vision for America's future. In the Presidential line of succession, the US Secretary of Transportation is number 14, above only four other Cabinet members.

Some of the more well-known divisions in the Department of Transportation include the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As you can probably gather from this list, transportation safety is a major issue for the US Secretary of Transportation. The Secretary also oversees technological innovations which are designed to make transit faster and more efficient, and the construction of new roads, railways, and other transportation improvements across the United States.


As a member of the Presidential Cabinet, the US Secretary of Transportation must keep the President briefed about emerging issues in American transportation, and he or she also provides policy advice. The Secretary also works with staffers to draft proposed legislation and regulations to benefit American transportation, ranging from safety mandates to grants for alternative energy technology which could be used to power American vehicles.

The goal of the Department of Transportation is to ensure “a fast, safe efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system” for the United States. To this end, the agency works on everything from canal locks to freeways across the United States, conducting studies, providing grants, issuing mandates, and working with local officials to achieve its goals. The US Secretary of Transportation also meets with representatives from other agencies which might affect its operations, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Commerce.


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