Road transport is the dominant mode of transportation and it is believed that in the foreseeable future, road transport will still continue to dominate both freight and passenger traffic. Major transport routes follow the north-south pattern in accordance with the distribution of the population, and with major East-West links to neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. Road transport carries 91% of passenger traffic (passenger/kilometer) and 81% of freight traffic (ton/kilometer) (Statistics year book 2012, Lao PDR). The Mekong River and its tributaries carry the remaining share of freight (17.9%) along with only 2.52% share of passenger traffic. Although the volume of airfreight is negligible (0.12%), domestic passenger air transport has reached 5.58% of the demand and plays a crucial role in linking urban areas and otherwise inaccessible parts of the country. A 3.5 km rail link, extending from Nongkai, Thailand to Thanaleng, Vientiane Capital, was opened to traffic in March 2009 - even though it is a very small rail link, it connects with the Thai Railway Network, enabling Lao rail transportation to deep-water seaports in Thailand and beyond.
National government activities in the transport sector are undertaken primarily by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT). Divisions in MPWT with operational responsibilities are the Department of Civil Aviation, Department of Inland Waterways, Department of Public Works and Transport (DPWT), Department of Roads (DOR), Department of Transport (DOT), and the Railway Authority. The Department for Planning and Cooperation in MPWT is responsible for overall management of development assistance programs. Traffic enforcement is undertaken by the Traffic Police Department (TPD) in the Ministry of Public Security. Urban roads are the responsibility of urban development administration authorities, which are responsible to their provincial governments and, in the case of the Vientiane Urban Development Administration Authority, to Vientiane Prefecture. The Ministry of Finance continues to play a major role in financing transport sector activities through the national budget.A division of DPWT is located in each of the country’s 18 provinces. Each DPWT reports to the governor of the province, with MPWT also providing direction, guidance, and support. DPWTs are, in turn, supported by an office of public works and transport (OPWT) in each district center in a province
National interagency coordination and consultation is through the National Transport Committee, which was established in 2002 and has a secretariat in the DOT. The committee comprises representatives of the ministries of finance, commerce, foreign affairs, and public security, as well as MPWT and transport industry representatives. It addresses a range of issues, including planning transport services; setting maximum transport tariffs; establishing standards for road vehicles; coordinating government activities; acting as a focal point for international agreements and agencies that influence transport operations in the Lao PDR (e.g., the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN], GMS, and various United Nations programs); assessing the benefits of acceding to international agreements and conventions; and coordinating, implementing, and monitoring Lao PDR’s activities under agreed international agreements. The law under which the National Transport Committee was established allows creation of transport committees at provincial, municipal, and special zone levels to provide advice on transport operation, determine routes and transport prices on the basis set out by MPWT, and encourage enforcement of laws and regulations.