DMV DOT: What the Department of Transportation Does for You

April 9, 2012

The state DMV and DOT are sometimes thought of synonymously, but they're different agencies with different charters. Learn more about their differences.

State DOT Staff Member

The Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles are two different divisions dealing with different facets of coordinating and increasing the safety and quality of your state's roads and transportation systems.

State DOT

The Department of Transportation, or DOT, may go by different names, such as Caltrans in California, but its role is generally the same from state to state. The DOT deals with transportation and mobility on a state wide basis, but this doesn't just mean local roads and highways. Depending on the state, the DOT's range of responsibility can include the coordination, planning, construction and administration of your state's mass transit systems, such as buses and light rail, and railway transportation for both passengers and material shipments. The DOT maintains these transportation systems, builds highways and roads, and maintains the equipment used on them. The DOT's main concern is of the timely operation and safety of these roads and methods of transportation rather than the individuals that use them.

To this end, the DOT collects a variety of data regarding the methods of travel as well as numbers and frequency of accidents during their use, in order to better determine various laws and regulations such as speed limits and ways to alleviate traffic congestion.

State DMV

DMV stands for Department of Motor Vehicles, and just as the name states, their concern lies with motor vehicles such as cars, trucks and motorcycles. The individual name of the agency may vary depending on the state. Some common names include the BMV, or bureau of motor vehicles, in places like Ohio, or the Motor Vehicle Department, in Arizona. The DMV is a division of the DOT, and deals with licensing, vehicle registration and operator certification of drivers both private and commercial that use cars and trucks on public roads. The DMV is where you go for your driver's license test, where you pay for your car's registration fees, and where you get your license plate and emissions testing done. Rather than infrastructure and physical design, the DMV deals with the people operating the vehicles found on public roads, as well as the vehicles themselves, ensuring that they are all qualified to operate on public roads safely. To this end, the DMV keeps detailed logs of driving records and vehicle titling, and holds the power to revoke or reinstate driving privileges as it deems necessary.