What is the Department of Transportation’s DBE Program?

The program provides a vehicle for increasing participation by MBEs (Minority Business Enterprise) in state and local procurement.  The Department of Transportation (DOT) DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) regulations requires state and local transportation agencies that receive DOT financial assistance to establish goals for the participation of DBEs. Each DOT-assisted State and local transportation agency is required to establish annual DBE goals, review the scope of any anticipated large prime contracts and establish contract-specific DBE subcontracting goals. The three major DOT operating administrations are involved in the DBE program. They are, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

In addition to establishing goals, the state and local recipients also certify the eligibility of DBE firms to participate in the DOT assisted projects. There are some groups that are presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged for the purposes of participation in this program. In 1987 Congress added women to the disadvantaged group. The three main objectives of the DBE program are:

·To ensure small disadvantaged business enterprises can compete fairly for federally funded transportation related projects.

·To ensure that only eligible firs participate as DEBs.

·To assist DBE firms in competing outside the DBE program.

In 1983, a statutory provision requiring DOT to ensure at least 10% of the funds authorized for the highway and transit financial assistance programs be expend with DBEs.  The DOT established a single DBE goal, to encompass both firms owned by women and minority group members.

In order for small disadvantaged firms, including those owned by minorities and women, to participate in the DOT assisted contracts, they must apply for and receive certification as a DBE. To be certified as a DBE, a firm must be a small business owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Recipients get information about firms through on-site visits, personal interviews, reviews of licenses, stock ownership, equipment, bonding capacity, work completed, and resume of principal owners, financial capacity, and type of work preferred. To be regarded as economically disadvantages, an individual must have a personal net worth which does not exceed $750,000. A firm must meet SBA size criteria and have average annual gross receipts not to exceed $33.41 million dollars. However, the size limits for the airport concessions DBE program are higher.

The following links will give you guidance, information and help with the certification process.

DBE Program Contacts:

US DOT Contact Information for the DBE Program








To learn more about the DOT Disadvantage Business Enterprise, you can visit the DOT website at:


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