Federal Regulations and Circulars


This section of the toolkit introduces the primary sources of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) guidance on the federal regulations that apply to rural public transit providers. This section is organized in the following subsections:

Federal Regulations and Laws

Throughout this toolkit, there are acronyms that refer to rules, regulations and laws. Federal regulations are detailed in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).  The Government Printing Office defines the CFR as “the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government.” The regulations established by the U.S. Department Transportation (U.S. DOT) are found in Title 49 of the CFR.  The CFRs that have been established by FTA are found in Parts 600 through 699.  Parts 1 to 99 of the Title 49 were established by the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. DOT, and some of these are very important to be aware of, such as 49 CFR Part 37, which includes many of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules that apply to public (and private) transportation providers. A table is provided at the end of this section with links to CFRs with which rural public transit managers need become familiar

Federal agencies such as FTA and U.S. DOT are authorized by legislation (statutory law) to establish these rules and regulations.  The laws themselves are documented in the Code of Laws of the United States (U.S. Code, or U.S.C.).  The federal transit laws are codified at Title 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53, and are periodically reauthorized and amended through new legislation. In 2015, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act amended the federal transportation laws and reauthorized the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding programs through Federal Fiscal Year 2020. The Section 5311 Formula Grants for Rural Areas Program (49 U.S.C. 5311) is among the programs reauthorized by the FAST Act.  The FAST Act is set to expire on September 30, 2021, following a one-year extension included in H.R 8337 - Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, signed into law on October 1, 2020. The next reauthorization may result in changes to FTA grant programs in future years.      

Some of the requirements established by federal agencies come from Executive Orders, which are directives that are signed by President of the United States and have the force of law. An example is Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency.  (The requirements related to this executive order are introduced in the Civil Rights section of this toolkit.)

FTA issues guidance on how to comply with federal rules, regulations, and requirements.  In FTA guidance documents that were issued prior to the passage of the FAST Act, earlier federal transit authorizing legislation is referenced, such as the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), so it may be useful to know what these are.  A history of the authorizing legislation for the Section 5311 program can be found on pages I-6 to I-7 of FTA Circular C 9040.1G.   

Here are links to web pages that provide more information about MAP-21 and the FAST Act.​

FTA Circulars

FTA often communicates guidance on regulations through circulars, which assist grantees in understanding and complying with statutory requirements.  FTA circulars describe the regulations, and sometimes provide additional guidance on matters on which the CFRs are silent. FTA circulars provide instructions to grantees or other stakeholders on how FTA grants will be administered.  This guidance provides grantees with direction on program-specific issues and statutory requirements.  Grantees are required to comply with all circulars and agree to do so by signing FTA Certifications and Assurances that are released annually. States and other direct recipients do this within FTA’s Transit Award Management System (TrAMS).

Subrecipients do this as part of their grant application to the state (with each state determine their own application process). The FTA Master Agreement which is incorporated in each FTA grant agreement also obligates grantees to comply with federal requirements.  More information about the Certifications and Assurances and Master Agreement can be found in the FTA Compliance Requirements of this toolkit.

Read more about how FTA develops regulations and circulars and find a full list of FTA circulars on the FTA website, with a list of those most relevant to Section 5311 subrecipients listed below.

Note that the FTA website URLs sometimes change. Although National RTAP regularly checks the functionality of all links in this toolkit, there may occasionally be a “broken” link.  In this case, look for the FTA Circulars page through the FTA home page under Regulations and Programs.

Any funds subrecipients are still spending that were authorized and appropriated while MAP-21 (Federal FY13-FY15) was in effect will follow FTA’s regulations under those acts.  Funds apportioned in FY16-FY20 will fall under FAST Act requirements. When in doubt, follow this simple advice from FTA, “old money, old rules; new money, new rules,” and check with the State DOT to confirm which federal authorization funds the specific grant.   

FTA circulars that apply, or may be of interest, to subrecipients of Section 5311 funds under FAST Act and MAP-21, include:




Last updated

What it covers

C 4220.1F

Third Party Contracting Guidance


Procurement requirements

C 4702.1B

Title VI Requirements and Guidelines for Federal Transit Administration Recipients


Title VI requirements

C 4703.1

Environmental Justice Policy Guidance for Federal Transit Administration Recipients


Environmental Justice

C 4704.1A

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Act: Guidance


EEO requirements

C 4710.1

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Guidance


ADA requirements

C 5010.1E

Award Management Requirements


General requirements for all FTA grants

C 5100.1

Bus and Bus Facilities Program: Guidance and Application Instructions (Section 5339)


Section 5339 requirements

C 9040.1G.

Formula Grants for Rural Areas: Program Guidance and Application Instructions (Section 5311)


Section 5311 requirements

C 9070.1G

Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities: Program Guidance and Application Instructions (Section 5310)


Section 5310 requirements


Office of Management and Budget (OMB) “Super Circular”

In December 2013, OMB published the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, commonly referred to as “the Super Circular,” which applies to any organization receiving federal funding. It consolidated eight circulars into uniform regulations in Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), specifically 2 CFR Part 200. The Super Circular applies to federal grants and agreements awarded on or after December 26, 2014.

The Super Circular sets forth pre- and post-award requirements for grantees, including standards for financial and program management; property standards; procurement standards; performance and financial monitoring and reporting; record retention and access; closeout; cost principles; audit requirements; and more. Grantees should consult the Super Circular before applying for a grant and while administering a grant.

The Super Circular was adopted by the U.S. DOT in 2 CFR Part 1201, which repealed the former 49 CFR Parts 18 and 19 for grants and cooperative agreements executed on or after December 26, 2014.

The Super Circular is reflected in FTA Circular C 5010.1E, Award Management Requirements, which was updated in 2018, but various other FTA circulars have not yet been updated to reflect the Super Circular. There may still be references in the older circulars to the former 49 CFR Parts 18 and 19 and OMB Circulars A-87, A-122, A-133, and others, all which were superceded by the Super Circular.


In addition to the FTA circulars and the Super Circular, rural transit managers need to be aware of the many CFRs that apply to their grant or their services.  A table with links to each CFR is provided at the end of this section of the toolkit.  The OMB Super Circular is found in 2 CFR Part 200 and the U.S. DOT adoption of the Super Circular is found in 2 CFR Part 1201.  The U.S. DOT regulations are found in Title 49 of the CFR.  

  • Parts 26, 27, and 37 through 40 of Title 49 were established by the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. DOT, and include requirements related to Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), nondiscrimination on the basis of disability, and procedures for drug and alcohol testing. 
  • Parts 604, 605, 625, 630, and 655 were established by FTA and include numerous requirements with which FTA grantees must comply, including charter bus, school bus, transit asset management, National Transit Database (NTD), and drug and alcohol testing programs.  Parts 661, 663, and 665 are procurement-related FTA requirements: Buy America, pre-award and post-delivery audits, and bus testing.
  • Parts 382 through 396 were established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  The Part 382 FMCSA drug and alcohol program requirements may apply to Section 5310 grantees if they have safety sensitive employees and are not subject to FTA’s drug and alcohol program requirements under Part 655.  As part of the grant agreement with the FTA (Section 33, Motor Carrier Safety of the FY2020 Master Agreement), Section 5311 grantees agree that they will comply with certain insurance and safety requirements of the FMCSA.  These requirements, included in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), include requirements for passenger carriers and employers of drivers of vehicles that require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The FMCSRs can be found on the FMCSA website.  Section 5311 grantees specifically need to comply with 49 CFR Parts 383/384 (federal and state CDL requirements), 387 (minimum insurance requirements – with the exception that Section 5311 grantees must only obtain the highest amount required by any state in which the public transportation provider operates), and 390 – 397 (safety requirements), to the extent applicable. 

Federal regulations with which rural transit managers need to be familiar:

Title/Part of CFR


What it covers

2 CFR Part 200

Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) “Super Circular” – includes requirements for financial management, equipment and real property management, procurement, reporting, recordkeeping, grant closeout, cost principles, and audits.  Superseded previous OMB Circulars including A-21, A-87, A-102, A-110, A-122, and A-133, and others.

2 CFR Part 1201

Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards


U.S. DOT adoption 2 CFR Part 200.  Superseded and repealed the requirements of former U.S. DOT Common Rules (49 CFR Parts 18 and 19) for grants and cooperative agreements executed on or after December 26, 2014.

49 CFR Part 26

Participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises in Department of Transportation Financial Assistance Programs

U.S. DOT requirements for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) participation in procurement

49 CFR Part 27

Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance


U.S. DOT requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794, “Section 504”)

See also 49 CFR Part 37

49 CFR Part 37

Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities (ADA)


U.S. DOT requirements under the ADA for programs and services – including general nondiscrimination, service requirements, when facilities must be made accessible, when vehicles that comply with 49 CFR Part 38 must be purchased

49 CFR Part 38

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Specifications for Transportation Vehicles

U.S. DOT requirements under the ADA for vehicle specifications – vehicle procurements must meet these standards

49 CFR Part 39

Transportation for Individuals with Disabilities: Passenger Vessels

U.S. DOT requirements under the ADA for waterborne passenger transportation service (including ferries and water taxis)

49 CFR Part 40

Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs

U.S. DOT requirements for drug and alcohol testing procedures, employer responsibilities, and qualifications of service agents

See also:

  • 49 CFR Part 655 (for Section 5307, 5311, and 5339 grantees)
  • 49 CFR Part 382 (for Section 5310 grantees that employ CDL drivers)

49 CFR Part 604

Charter Service

FTA requirements that protect private charter operators from unauthorized competition from FTA funding recipients

49 CFR Part 605

School Bus Operations

FTA requirements that prohibit FTA funding recipients from providing exclusive school bus transportation in competition from private operators

49 CFR Part 625

Transit Asset Management

FTA Transit Asset Management (TAM) planning and reporting requirements

49 CFR Part 630

National Transit Database

FTA National Transit Database (NTD) reporting requirements


49 CFR Part 655

Prevention of Alcohol Misuse and Prohibited Drug Use in Transit Operations

FTA drug and alcohol testing programs requirements that apply to Section 5307, 5311, and 5339 grantees

See also 49 CFR Part 40

49 CFR Part 661

Buy America Procedures

FTA procurement requirements to ensure steel or manufactured products meet minimum domestically produced contents

49 CFR Part 663

Pre-Award and Post-Delivery Audits of Rolling Stock Purchases

FTA procurement requirements for reviewing passenger vehicle procurements to ensure compliance with Buy America, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and purchaser’s specifications

49 CFR Part 665

Bus Testing

FTA procurement requirement that FTA funds be used to procure only vehicle models that pass federally-required testing

49 CFR Part 673

Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans

FTA requirements for states and transit agencies to establish safety plans for FTA grantees; not applicable to agencies that only receive Section 5310 and/or Section 5311

49 CFR Part 382

Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing

FMCSA drug and alcohol testing requirements (applies to employers of  CDL drivers that don’t receive Section 5307, 5311, or 5339 – these are instead subject to 49 CFR Part 655)

See also 49 CFR Part 40

49 CFR Part 383

Commercial Driver's License Standards; Requirements and Penalties

FMCSA requirements for drivers of commercial vehicles to have CDLs and medical certification; employer requirements to ensure

49 CFR Part 384

State Compliance with Commercial Driver's License Program

FMCSA requirements for states to comply with 49 CFR Part 383

49 CFR Part 387

Minimum Levels of Financial Responsibility for Motor Carriers

FMCSA requirements for insuring commercial vehicles that cross state lines

49 CFR Part 390

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; General

FMCSA general requirements, definitions and applicability

49 CFR Part 391

Qualifications of Drivers and Longer Combination Vehicle (LCV) Driver Instructors

FMCSA qualifications for drivers of commercial vehicles and employer responsibilities

49 CFR Part 392

Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles

FMCSA requirements related to safe operations of commercial vehicles

49 CFR Part 393

Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation

FMCSA requirements for vehicle safety equipment

49 CFR Part 395

Hours of Service of Drivers

FMCSA requirements for maximum driving time and recordkeeping

49 CFR Part 396

Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance

FMCSA requirements for vehicle inspections, repairs, and maintenance


Brief summaries of the requirements in the above CFRs can be found in the FTA Compliance Requirements section of the toolkit, with additional details in several of the requirements found in other sections of the toolkit.

Updated November 13, 2020