In the United States, the Secretary of Transportation is a Cabinet-level position in the executive branch of government. Appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, she heads up the Department of Transportation (DOT). The federal job dates back to 1966, when the Department of Transportation Act became law. Many states also have their own secretaries of transportation who oversee state-level departments of transportation.
At the federal level, the transportation secretary has a number of responsibilities. He has 11 federal agencies under his control, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). He is also responsible for the formulation of national transportation policies. These aim to ensure a well-coordinated and efficient national transportation system. Everything from bike paths to interstate highways to maintenance on a Boeing 747 falls within his purview.
A state transportation secretary has several responsibilities. For one, she is responsible for implementing federal transportation rules and regulations. For another, she's the keeper of all roads (federal, state and local) within the state. She has to make sure they meet safety standards, that they're well-maintained and that an effective plan for managing the need for growth exists. Most state transportation department heads also have other state agencies under their control.
Federal secretaries spend a great deal of time trying to maintain and improve the nation's many transportation systems. They do this through an executive office known as the OST (Office of the Secretary of Transportation). Within the OST are 15 separate offices. Each is responsible for some aspect of the department as a whole. These include not only ensuring the safety of airlines but also promoting them. Other offices manage automobile safety recalls.
A state transportation secretary's authority is limited to the issues that go on within the state's boarders. He also works with federal DOT officials and their secretary on matters dealing with the state's federal interstate highways. They also spend a great deal of time working to allocate the state and federal funding given to their departments for roadway improvements. Through various agencies, they also develop and implement traffic management policies for state and local roads.
Usually, transportation secretaries at the state level are appointed officials. In most states, the governor selects his secretary. The state legislative body confirms the appointment. This is normally the Senate or House of Representatives. Whether state or federal, each secretary has to balance her statutory responsibilities with her governor's (or president's) priorities. At the federal level, the secretary of Transportation is also 14th in the line of succession to the presidency.