Let’s get started by defining what exactly DOT is. DOT stands for the Department Of Transportation, which is a government agency that is devoted to transportation in USA and Canada ( In Canada, it can also be called Transport Canada and “E-Mark” in Europe). The DOT sets standards and regulations for nearly all components of a vehicle that are to be used on public roads legally, from headlights and tail lights to tires and bumpers. Therefore, in order for a LED light to be DOT approved, it must be built to strict government standards, specifications and regulations as well as tests. All of this is done in order to ensure the light is safe to use on public roads, serves its intended purpose and provides satisfactory illumination. Some specifications that are considered by DOT when it comes to forward lighting are beam width, height and intensity.
What is SAE?
So we just learned that DOT is a government agency which basically sets rules for vehicles and vehicle parts manufacturers to follow in order for them to be street legal, so what the heck is SAE and why do we need it? SAE, which stands for Society of Automotive Engineers is an international organization of more than 138,000 engineers globally which provides technical standards and recommended practices when it comes to the design, construction and characteristics of vehicle components. SAE documents do not carry any legal strength. Therefore, just because a vehicle component such as a LED light is SAE approved, it does not mean it is legal to be used on public roads, all it means is that the quality of the design and construction meet the standards set by SAE, which are very high standards indeed.
DOT vs SAE
To summarize the difference between the two organizations in simple terms, DOT is a federal/government agency which sets the standards and says what is legal to be used on public roads and what isn’t, while SAE is a standards organization and professional association for engineering professionals which focuses mainly on transportation industries by offering recommended practices by which a vehicle component is to be built to.
SAE/DOT Approved LED Lights
Now that we know what exactly DOT and SAE is and what differentiates them, let’s talk about DOT and/or SAE approved LED lighting. By law, in order to operate a LED light, or any other kind of light on public roads legally, it MUST BE approved by the department of transportation (DOT). If a light is SAE compliant, meaning it is built to the strict standards set by the SAE alone, and not DOT, it cannot be used legally on a public road or highway.
So if you are in the market and are looking to get LED lighting which you can operate legally on public roads and highways, ensure that the LED driving light, LED fog light or LED headlight is DOT approved and not just SAE approved as in the end it is DOT which says what is legal to be used on the road and what isn’t, not SAE. All of our DOT approved LED fog lights and headlights are also SAE and E-Mark compliant.