Transport law

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Transport law (or transportation law) is the area of law dealing with transport. The laws can apply very broadly at a transport system level or more narrowly to transport things or activities within that system such as vehicles, things and behaviours. Transport law is generally found in two main areas —

Legislation typically consists of statutes known as Acts and delegated legislation like regulations, orders or notices. Case law consists of judgments, findings and rulings handed down by courts.

Transport system things and activities

Transport laws can apply at a global transport system-wide level. A transport system can encompass a wide range of matters which make up the system. These include -

A transport system includes not only system infrastructure and conveyances, but also things like -

  • communication systems and other technologies
  • strategic, business and operational plans
  • schedules, timetables and ticketing systems
  • safety systems
  • labour components
  • service components
  • government decision makers like Ministers, departments, authorities, corporations, agencies and other legal persons.

The Transport Integration Act of Victoria, Australia provides an example of the use of a broad statutory formulation to circumscribe the operation of a transport law in legislative form.[1]

Individual components can be identified from this broad transport system formulation and then regulated discreetly. For example, a bus or a car forms part of a broad transport system but are commonly regulated on an individual basis in terms of identification (registration), control of the vehicle (driver licensing and drug and blood alcohol controls), vehicle forms and fittings (vehicle standards) and other safety requirements.

Examples of transport legislation

Victoria again provides an example of a jurisdiction with a suite of transport legislation which operates both at transport system and modal or activity levels.

System level

The Transport Integration Act sets out the overall policy framework for transport in Victoria. It also establishes and sets the charters of the key government agencies which make decisions affecting the planning and operation of the State's transport system and each agency is required by the statute to have regard to the policy framework.

As a general rule, transport agencies and officials do not exist in their own right and have no existence or power without conferral from a transport law. Legislation is commonly required for this purpose. Transport decision makers and agencies established and/or empowered by the Transport Integration Act[2] include -

  • key government figures such as Ministers (currently the Minister for Public Transport, the Minister for Roads and the Minister for Ports)
  • a central government Department - the Department of Transport - responsible for system-wide planning, integration and coordination
  • a public transport agency responsible for providing or regulating train, tram, light rail, bus and taxi services - the Director of Public Transport and soon the Public Transport Development Authority
  • a road agency responsible for road construction and maintenance and vehicles and towing services regulation - the Roads Corporation (VicRoads)
  • agencies responsible for discrete parts of the rail system such as land, infrastructure and other assets (Victorian Rail Track (VicTrack)) and regional services (V/Line Corporation)
  • agencies responsible for ports and other waters - the Port of Melbourne Corporation, the Port of Hastings Development Authority, the Victorian Regional Channels Authority and local and other authorities
  • an independent transport safety regulator (Director, Transport Safety) and independent safety investigator (the Chief Investigator, Transport Safety)
  • discrete special purpose rail and road projects agencies - the Regional Rail Link Authority and the Linking Melbourne Authority.

The Transport Integration Act establishes these agencies and sets their statutory charters. The charters circumscribe the agencies' jurisdiction or power to operate in and to regulate their respective components of the transport system.

Mode or activity-based legislation

Victoria has a range of statutes which regulate transport modes and transport-related activities throughout the State. These include—

Case law and law from other sources

Areas of transport law governed by court decisions and other non transport statutes or laws include property law, contract law, torts law and specialist regulation governing the contract of carriage, and the relationship between carriers and passengers in public transport and shippers and cargo owners in shipping.


  1. Transport Integration Act 2010 - see See the definition of "transport system" in section 3 of the Act.
  2. Transport Integration Act 2010 - see Parts 3, 5, 5A, 6, and 6A.