Regulation and Administration of Transportation Programs

SIC 9621

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This group covers government establishments primarily engaged in regulation, licensing, planning, inspection, and investigation of transportation services and facilities. Motor vehicle and operator licensing is classified here. Establishments of the Coast Guard that perform functions related to the regulation, administration, and operation of transportation are likewise included. Also included in this industry are civilian government air traffic control and aircraft inspection establishments. Parking authorities are classified here, but the operators of lots and garages are classified in SIC 7521: Automobile Parking. Operators of railroads, subways, depots, ports, toll roads and bridges, and other transportation facilities are classified in the Transportation, Communications, Electric, Gas, and Sanitary Services division. Highway construction and maintenance are classified in SIC 1611: Highway and Street Construction, Except Elevated Highways. Military establishments primarily engaged in air traffic control operations are classified in SIC 9711: National Security and private establishments engaged in air traffic control operations are classified in SIC 4581: Airports, Flying Fields, and Airport Terminal Services.

The regulation and administration of transportation programs includes numerous offices and agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. These offices build roadways, railways, canals, and other transportation routes; manage vehicle licensing and safety programs; collect data; inspect vehicles and equipment; regulate traffic; and enforce and propose laws. In 2010, the federal government budgeted $77 billion for transportation. The Department of Transportation had more than 60,000 employees throughout the world.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is the main transportation arm of the U.S. government. Formed in April of 1967, this massive bureaucracy encompasses several major government functions and wields significant influence over state governments that rely on its transportation funds. The DOT is comprised of nine administrations, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., the Office of the Secretary, and the Surface Transportation Board. The DOT is charged with establishing the nation's overall transportation policy and is organized into major task groups that oversee railroads; aviation; safety of waterways, ports, highways, and oil and gas pipelines; highway planning, development, and construction; and urban mass transit.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), under the auspices of the DOT, was established in 1958 to regulate air commerce, control the use of navigable U.S. airspace, promote and encourage civil aeronautics, maintain navigation facilities, develop and operate an air traffic control system, conduct research, and regulate the environmental effects of aviation, such as noise. The FAA has offices throughout the world. The FAA's budget for 2002 was $13.5 billion.

In 1967, the giant Federal Highway Administration (FHA) administered a number of transportation programs related to the total operation and environment of highway systems and motor carriers. For example, the FHA tried to create uniform state trucking standards and implement trucking safety programs. The 2011 budget for the FHA was $9.7 billion.

The FHA's notable Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP), established in 1968 as the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, promoted mass transportation initiatives. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) helped to develop technology and plans for new systems and carriers, encouraged the planning and creation of urban transit systems, provided financial assistance and consultation to state and local governments, and strove to implement national goals related to people who were elderly, handicapped, or economically disadvantaged. It operated largely through grant programs that disbursed federal dollars. The goal of the FTA is to provide public transit to all Americans. More than 10 million people utilize some form of public transit each working day. The budget for the FTA was set at $10.8 billion for 2011.

The Federal Railroad Administration, formed in 1966, enforced rail safety, administered railway financial assistance programs, and generally supported rail transportation activities. Its eight regional offices conduct a variety of safety, freight, research, and policy programs related to railroads. In the 2011 budget, the Federal Railroad Administration requested $2.9 billion.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) supports numerous federal and state governmental entities served to fulfill American transportation-related needs. The 2010 budget for the NHTSA was $872.8 million, with an additional $4.8 million requested for 2011.

The Federal Maritime Commission regulates waterborne foreign and domestic offshore commerce to assure that international trade is open to all nations. It also discourages unauthorized activities and enforces equitable carrier rates.

The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was established in 1979, and operated, maintained, and improved the Panama Canal in an effort to ensure safe, efficient, and economical transit service for the benefit of global commerce. It ceded its duties to the Republic in 2000.

U.S. Coast Guard.
When President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act into law on November 25, 2002, the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard were moved from the DOT to the newly formed U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard, which becomes part of the Department of the Navy during wartime, enforces maritime laws; sets standards for and inspects commercial vessels; investigates marine accidents and misconduct, including pollution; and enforces port safety. According to the DOT, the Coast Guard's mission is to "protect the public, U.S. economic interests and the environment--at sea, along the nation's coasts, in U.S. ports and waterways, and internationally." The Coast Guard also runs boating safety programs, operates icebreaking vessels, and trains military reserves. One of its chief responsibilities is maintaining a navigation system, which includes long-range satellite radio-navigation aids positioned around the globe. Similar to but separate from the Coast Guard is the Maritime Administration, established in 1950, which helps to develop and promote the U.S. merchant marine.

Overall expenditures for transportation increased in the late twentieth century, as the nation sought to revitalize and maintain its aging highways and roads. Federal spending on all transportation-related programs totaled $31 billion in 1991. By 2003 that figure had risen to $53.7 billion, and by 2010 the transportation budget had reached $77 billion.

In June 1998, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century became Public Law 105-178. It authorized the federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for the six-year period from 1998 to 2003. Some of the department's stated goals were to increase seat belt use, reduce the percentage of alcohol-related highway fatalities, increase Amtrak ridership, decrease mobile source emissions from on-road vehicles, and decrease the number of U.S. residents exposed to significant aircraft noise levels.

Due to disagreements in Congress regarding funding, the act was allowed to lapse after several temporary extensions. In 2005 the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) was passed, which designated how funds would be distributed through 2009. As of January 2011, no new highway bill had been passed. In the meantime, money for transportation projects was drawn from the U.S. Treasury's general fund.

Motor Vehicle Safety.
By 2003, forty-nine states and the District of Columbia had seat belt laws in effect. According to NHTSA data, more than 147,000 lives were saved by seat belts between 1975 and 2001. Of these, more than 12,000 people were saved in 2001 alone. However, the NHTSA estimates that this number could have been greater than 21,300 if all passengers (over the age of four) had been wearing seat belts. Motor vehicle accidents remained the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 4 and 33. While these statistics are sobering, positive strides were made in the late 2000s, thanks in part to higher national seat belt use (73 percent in 2001). Given the significant loss of human lives, as well as significant economic costs ($230.6 billion in 2001), the effort to reduce automobile accidents and improve transportation continued to be an important issue.

According to the NHTSA, in 2009 traffic fatalities were at their lowest level since 1954, reflecting a trend begun in 2005. Figures showed that 33,963 people died on U.S. roads in 2009, a decrease of almost 9 percent as compared to 2008 and 22 percent since 2005. Of the total traffic fatalities in 2009, about 32 percent were due to alcohol-impaired drivers. Although this figure represented a decrease of 7.4 percent from 2008 and 17 percent since 1991, it still signified that, in 2009, an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every 48 minutes. Fourteen percent of those killed in alcohol-related crashes were children under the age of 14.

By 2010 all 50 states and the District of Columbia had laws in place that made it illegal to drive with a BAC (blood alcohol count) of over .08. Of the crashes that involved drivers with a BAC over .08, 67 percent of the alcohol-impaired drivers died, and 16 percent of passengers riding with the drunk driver died. Impaired drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 had the highest percentage of fatalities. In addition, male fatalities outnumbered female fatalities.

Another area of concern for the NHTSA was distracted drivers. Distracting activities include using a cell phone, reading, eating and drinking, and other activities that avert a driver's attention. NHTSA figures showed that 5,474 people were killed (6 percent more than in 2005) and 448,000 injured in crashes that involved distracted driving in 2009. Eighteen percent of fatalities involved using a cell phone. Figures such as these led some states to pass laws that prohibited the use of cell phones while driving. As of 2010, 30 states and the District of Columbia had laws that prohibited texting (12 of these were enacted in 2010) and 8 had passed legislation banning the use of handheld cell phones. However, the laws were difficult to enforce, and a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) showed that they were not reducing the number of crashes. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and HLDI president Adrian Lund, "The laws aren't reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk." Whether government regulation on cell phone use while driving should be increased or reduced remained a debated topic as America headed into the second decade of the twenty-first century.

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