DOT Physical
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Don’t Sweat Your DOT Physical

If you are a professional truck or bus driver, then you’re familiar with Department of Transportation (DOT) physicals. They can be nerve-wracking if you are unprepared or don’t know what to expect. Here are some common questions drivers have and the answers you might be looking for:

Do You Need A Physical?

If you are a commercial driver in a safety-sensitive career, where your job can impact your own safety and the general public’s safety, you may need a DOT physical. Typically, you will be required to get a physical if your job consists of any of the following:

  1. You transport hazardous materials that require a placard on your vehicle.
  2. You earn money operating a vehicle carrying more than eight people, nine including you.
  3. You use vehicles designed to carry greater than 15 people.
  4. You drive on the interstate, and the gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight are greater than 10,000 pounds.

Who Can Perform Your Physical?

Only medical professionals certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) can conduct your exam and issue a certificate. They maintain a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. The list includes doctors of chiropractic or osteopathy, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, and regular medical doctors. Our searchable database of certified providers can help connect you with a medical examiner near you.

What Do You Need To Prepare For Your Physical?

When you arrive for your physical, you will need to fill out the driver’s portion of a medical examination report form. You will need to indicate any previous or ongoing health conditions. You must be honest on this form, or the DOT can revoke your certificate. The examiner will be thorough and will quickly find most things you have tried to omit.

You will need to bring to your appointment:

  1. A list of all of your medications with dosages, including over-the-counter and homeopathic medicines, and why you take them. You may need a letter from your doctor and medical records if any cause sleepiness, are a controlled substance, or are blood thinners, like Coumadin. Consider using the CMV Driver Medication Form provided by FMCSA.
  2. Contacts, glasses, or hearing aids if you use them.
  3. If you’ve had previous heart issues, a letter from your cardiologist stating you’re safe to drive and any recent heart test results.
  4. A letter from your doctor with any work restrictions if you’ve lost permanent use of your limbs.
  5. A letter from your neurologist if you have an aneurysm, seizure disorder, or a history of a brain bleed, tumor, or stroke.
  6. If you have sleep apnea, your CPAP machine records showing proper use since your last medical certification exam.
  7. If you have diabetes, your most recent Hgb A1C results or a recent history of your blood glucose readings.

What’s Included in the Physical?

The portion of the Medical Examiner Report Form (MCSA-5875) that you complete asks if you’ve ever had surgery, use tobacco, alcohol, or illegal substance use. It will ask your medical history and medication use and if you’ve failed a drug test or been dependent on a substance.

The doctor or their staff will check your vitals, including height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse. They will assess your vision, hearing, skin, abdomen, back and spine, heart, and lungs. They will check your reflexes and assess your nervous system. They will look at the range of motion of your extremities and your gait, so they may have you do some walking and balance exercises.

The doctor will have you provide a urine sample for a urinalysis which will check for protein, blood, and sugar in your urine. If there are abnormal results, they may send you for additional tests or have you follow-up with your primary care provider. A DOT drug test is not part of the DOT physical but your employer may require one at the time of the physical exam.

What Can Keep You From Obtaining A DOT Medical Card?

There are some conditions that may lead to being disqualified and some issues may require additional tests. If you are disqualified due to a condition that you can control or that can be fixed, you can obtain a new physical exam and become certified. Also, for some conditions you may be able to apply for an exemption or waiver.

These conditions may cause disqualification:

  • Epilepsy or other seizure disorders
  • Inner ear disorders causing dizziness, like Meniere’s disease.
  • Uncorrectable vision worse than 20/40 vision and a field of vision of 70 degrees in each eye, with or without glasses. If you know that you will only be able to meet this criteria in one eye, you should have a vision specialist complete the Vision Evaluation Report (MCSA-5871) within 45 days prior to your DOT physical.
  • If you have hearing loss and cannot pass the hearing tests in both ears, you may still qualify for the federal hearing exemption.
  • Uncontrolled heart conditions, uncontrolled diabetes, and blood pressure above 180/110.
  • Use of oxygen therapy, marijuana, even if prescribed, or use of illegal substances.
  • Some respiratory conditions.
  • Unrepaired hernias that cause pain with exertion.
  • Untreated sleep apnea.

Medical certificates can be valid for up to two years although 50% of drivers receive a certificate for 1 year or even less due to a medical condition or findings during the exam. If you are given a temporary certificate, you are allowed to continue driving while you address the medical concerns that limited your certification.

If you encounter a worsening condition that puts your driving at risk, it’s your responsibility to stop driving, get treated, and retake your DOT physical to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. Your physical isn’t a roadblock to driving but another step in preventing avoidable crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Do your part to ensure everyone gets to their destination safely.