How to do business with the Iowa DOT

Are you interested in selling your product or service to the Iowa DOT? Concerned about all the rumored red tape? Not sure if you can provide anything we buy? We invite you to visit us or call for more detailed information.

Iowa Department of Transportation purchasing section responsibilities
The Iowa Department of Transportation’s (DOT) mission is to serve the public by advocating for and delivering transportation services that support the economic, environmental and social vitality of Iowa. The purchasing section is responsible for the purchase of all equipment, materials and supplies required by the Iowa DOT to fulfill this mission.

Purchasing personnel obey all federal and state laws, executive orders and rules concerning purchasing practices, including the prohibition of discriminatory practices. The statutes also require the Iowa DOT to solicit quotations from Iowa targeted small businesses. Employees of the State of Iowa cannot receive gifts or gratuities of any kind.

Goods and services
The Iowa DOT’s operations are very diverse and require a broad range of items to serve the public’s transportation needs.  The Iowa DOT has a central warehouse in Ames, which stocks more than 6,000 different commodities. Purchasing buys these commodities, as well as items for another 160 locations statewide.

The purchased products range from pencils to sophisticated computer equipment; paper to materials for highway repair and maintenance; and calculators to heavy equipment. Purchasing also takes bids for building construction projects.  In other words, it is possible the Iowa DOT buys what you can provide.

The Iowa DOT's purchasing section does not contract for highway and bridge construction projects. The department’s Office of Contracts is responsible for letting these projects and can be contacted at Iowa DOT, Office of Contracts, 800 Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa 50010 or telephone 515-239-1414.

Purchasing Web site
Visit for more information about selling your goods and services to the Iowa DOT.

Bid lists
The Iowa DOT routinely updates bid lists of the major commodities purchased.  To be considered for inclusion on the department’s bid lists, contact the purchasing office to request a vendor registration form.  The vendor registration form asks basic information about your firm and includes a checklist of the commodity bid lists.

The Iowa DOT gives public notice for formal, sealed bids on our Web site, and in the Des Moines Register and local papers. The Iowa Department of Economic Development is also notified.

To check on current bid opportunities online, go to

Supplier qualifications
All suppliers are expected to furnish supplies, materials and equipment that fully meet the specifications within the requested period and at the bid prices.

Vendors cannot engage in discriminatory employment practices and may be required to have on file an affirmative action plan that contains goals and time specifications.

Bidders for building construction projects must be registered as contractors by Iowa Workforce Development. For information on registering, call 515-281-5387.

A minority- or women-owned small business meeting certain requirements may be certified as an Iowa targeted small business. 

To apply for certification or additional information, contact the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals at 515-281-5796.

How bids are requested
There are two basic ways the Iowa DOT solicits bids.  Which method is used depends primarily on the expected dollar amount of the purchase. 

Emergency purchases or other considerations may require other methods of bidding.

1. Formal, sealed bids
A formal, sealed bid procedure is used for purchase orders or contracts expected to exceed $50,000.

Bid proposal packages are posted on the Iowa DOT's purchasing section Web site or mailed to prospective bidders upon request.  The package includes the following items.

  • Vendor’s copy of the bid proposal, which includes instructions to bidders, specifications, and a copy of the proposal form and schedule of prices. These documents detail what is being bid, specifications, terms of the sale, requirements the bidders must meet, criteria to be used in awarding the bid, term of the contract and/or required delivery date, and other pertinent information. The vendor's copy of the proposal includes all the information a potential bidder needs to make an informed bid. Bidders should keep this portion of the package as a record of the terms and specifications applicable to their bid.
  • A proposal form and schedule of prices to be completed, signed and returned to the Iowa DOT's purchasing section before the bid opening date and time
  • An address label or pre addressed envelope for returning the bid
  • Certain types of purchases require bid bonds. If a bid bond is required, the appropriate forms will be included as part of the package. Also included is the name of a contact person to call, if you have any questions about the proposal.
Sealed bids
  • Opened in public and read aloud at a specified time
  • Must be received before the time of the bid opening 
  • Cannot be accepted by facsimile machine 
  • Must be mailed or delivered to the Iowa DOT's purchasing section

After the bids are evaluated, the department returns a tabulation of bids and recommended bid award to all bidders who responded to the proposal.  A contract is normally prepared and sent to the successful bidder for signature.

2. Informal bids
For purchase orders less than $50,000, informal bids may be used.

Informal bids may be requested on several different forms or by phone.  The characteristics that distinguish an informal bid from a formal bid are that informal bids are not sealed and there is no public opening.  Informal bids submitted by facsimile machine are acceptable.  Several bidders may be selected from the bidder lists to provide informal bids. Enough vendors are selected to obtain a fair, competitive price.

Items of limited dollar value (normally less than $5,000) may be bought at a price negotiated with a responsible supplier.

There are several types of specifications used for both formal and informal bids.  A technical specification with individual requirements spelled out is common for purchase of equipment or materials. Other specifications may request a particular brand, include a list of pre approved brands or identify special performance criteria.

Bid evaluation criteria
Usually, the main factor for evaluating bids is the lowest price that meets the specification and delivery requirements. In special cases, availability, lifecycle costs, vendor performance or other criteria may be considered in the bid award. Any special criteria will be clearly spelled out in the bid request.

An Iowa bidder is given preference over an out-of-state bidder when bids are equal in price and all other respects.
Bids that are incomplete or contain modifications, limitations or terms and conditions different than requested in the bid request may be rejected.

The Iowa DOT's purchasing section has the right to reject bids or portions of bids that do not meet requirements and make awards that are most beneficial to the Iowa DOT.

Normally, a contract is issued to the low bidder submitting a formal, sealed bid.  The contract will specify the bid price and refer to other terms of the purchase.  The contract must be signed and returned to the Iowa DOT's purchasing section for countersignature, date and approval.  Contracts are often issued for purchases over a specified period.  The bid request will state the beginning and ending date of the contract, and either a specific or estimated quantity to be purchased. Unless otherwise shown in the bid request, prices must be guaranteed throughout the contract period. A contract is not an authorization to ship merchandise. Purchases will be made with purchase orders following approval of the contract.

Purchase orders
Purchase orders are used for all items purchased by the Iowa DOT's purchasing section. All shipments must include a packing slip with the department’s purchase order number noted on that slip.  Invoices also must note the purchase order number to ensure prompt payment.

The Iowa DOT is exempt from all federal and state taxes.  Tax exempt certificates will be supplied upon request.

Who to contact
Purchasing agents are responsible for purchasing certain types of commodities.  An insert lists the major commodity assignments, purchasing agent responsible and agent’s phone number.  If the insert is missing or you are unsure who to contact, please call the Iowa DOT's purchasing section at 515-239-1310.  Your call will be directed to the proper agent.

Iowa Department of Transportation
Purchasing Section
800 Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa 50010
Phone: 515-239-1310 Fax: 515-239-1538

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This page is maintained by Laura Linduski, Iowa DOT Purchasing