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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) DBE program ensures nondiscrimination in the award and administration of DOT-assisted contracts in the Department’s highway, transit, and airport financial assistance programs and seeks to create a level playing field on which DBEs can compete fairly for DOT-assisted contracts. The FTA Office of Civil Rights is responsible for monitoring FTA recipients' and transit vehicle manufacturers' DBE programs and ensuring their compliance with DOT's DBE regulations.

DBE Final Rule (April 2024)

On April 9, 2024, the Department published a DBE Final Rule in the Federal Register to modernize and streamline the DBE program regulations. Read the press release.

Through this rule change, DOT addressed many of the challenges DBEs have faced over the years. Changes to the DBE program include:  

  • Streamlining the DBE certification and eligibility process
  • Adjusting the personal net worth cap for inflation for small business owners, including excluding retirement assets from the calculation
  • Formalizing guidance establishing successful COVID-19 flexibilities, such as virtual on-site visits, to conserve certification and firm resources
  • Modernizing the rules for counting participation by DBE material suppliers expediting interstate reciprocity
  • Expanding reporting requirements to DOT

FTA Updates

As part of the DOT updates, there is now a tiered system for FTA grant recipients. This new system will result in data collection from more FTA recipients and clarity around prohibited discriminatory practices, which will help FTA ensure that contractors working on transit projects are not subjected to discrimination in the award and administration of FTA-funded contracts.

Beginning in FY 2025, FTA will move to this tiered system for DBE program compliance.

  • Tier I Recipients:  FTA grant recipients who award more than $670,000 in FTA funds annually in 3rd party contracts are subject to all provisions
  • Tier II Recipients: FTA grant recipients who award $670,000 or less in FTA funds annually are subject to a subset of provisions, such as the reporting requirements and the small business element

Recipients are encouraged to review the FTA guidance for Tier II recipients, available on our Guidance page.

The Final Rule also clarifies the requirements for FTA-assisted transit vehicle procurements but does not make any changes to those requirements. The Final Rule also simplifies the definition of transit vehicle manufacturer (TVM). FTA expects that some recipients will need to revise their policies to ensure they are complying with the rules for transit vehicle procurements, and FTA is currently developing technical assistance material on this topic.

Notable changes and updates in the 2024 Final Rule:

Data Collection & Reporting

  • The Uniform Report, which captures contracting data, now collects information on individual DBEs and contracts
  • Recipients are now required to submit their bidders lists
  • UCPs are now required to include more information on certification and decertification it their annual report to DOT

DBE Performance Plans on Design-Build Contracts

  • Prime bidders on race-conscious design-build contracts are now allowed to submit a plan for bringing on DBEs throughout the life of the project to meet the DBE goal
  • Prime bidders are no longer required to list all commitments at the bid stage

DBE Credit/Counting Updates

  • There are both clarifications and changes to how recipients and primes count DBE participation
  • Affects counting for regular dealers, material suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, and more

Monitoring & Prompt Payment Language

  • The requirements for prompt payment and return of retainage have been clarified and the language is strengthened and expanded, but the requirements have not changed
  • DOT’s expectations for monitoring are codified

For more information on the Final Rule, please visit the Departmental Office of Civil Rights’ DBE Final Rule webpage.

DBE Outreach and Listening Session

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights hosted a virtual outreach and listening session on Thursday, October 14, 2021 on the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program (49 CFR Part 26). DBEs, FTA recipients, transit vehicle manufacturers, and other interested stakeholders participated and provided feedback. For more information and a recording of the session, please visit the event page here.

Fraud & Certification Appeals