Facts that May Help You Pass the DOT Medical Exam

Facts that May Help You Pass the DOT Medical Exam

Have you been worrying about your upcoming DOT exam? If you have existing health issues, you might wonder if you’ll pass. You may have heard stories from a coworker about the challenges another driver faced. The best approach to your DOT physical is to understand the facts. Here are some facts about three common conditions and how they may or may not influence the outcome of your exam.


When the nurse takes your blood pressure, they look for signs of hypertension (unusually high pressure against the blood vessel walls). First, you must understand the numbers.

Systolic blood pressure (the top number) = the pressure against your artery walls when your heart contracts.

Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) = the pressure against your artery walls while the heart rests between contractions.

  • Normal = 120/80 or less. No changes are necessary.
  • Elevated = 120-129/80 or less. If this is a trend, you may consider lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure.
    • Taking 8,260 steps daily has been clinically proven to decrease hypertension, according to a study by the AllOfUs Research Program.
    • Eating a balanced diet rich in fiber-rich nutrient-dense fruits and veggies, whole grains, dairy, chicken, and fish while limiting salt, sugar, and fats.
  • Hypertension Stage 1 = 140-159/90-99. Your physician may counsel you on lifestyle choices and consider prescribing blood pressure medication. If you don’t have a history of hypertension, you can be issued a one-year certificate. If you do have a history of hypertension, you can get a three-month certificate and must recertify. If your blood pressure is 140/90 or less at that point, you can get a one-year certificate.
  • Hypertension Stage 2 =160/100-109. At this stage, many doctors will prescribe blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes. There is a high risk of cardiovascular disease with hypertension stage 2. You can be certified for a one-time, three-month certificate. After three months, if your blood pressure is 140/90 or below, you can get a one-year certificate.
  • Hypertension Stage 3 = 180/110. Blood pressure in this range is a danger to you and others if you get behind the wheel of a truck. You should see your doctor immediately, particularly if experiencing chest or back pain, pain in the jaw or down the left arm, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness or numbness, vision changes, trouble speaking, confusion, or facial paralysis. It will disqualify you from driving until it is under 140/90 and you are tolerating treatment well. If you come back for another exam and your blood pressure is 140/90 or less, you can get a 6-month certificate, but that is the maximum time span between certifications.


There are two general categories of depression. The first is circumstantial, meaning your circumstances caused your mood. A loved one died, you lost your job, your significant other or a child is seriously ill, you’re experiencing hormone changes, etc.

The other is MDD or Major Depressive Disorder. Your circumstances may aggravate MDD, but it can persist even if nothing happens to make you depressed. MDD is defined as having five or more of the following symptoms lasting two weeks or more:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Fatigue or low energy nearly every day
  • Trouble focusing
  • Getting too much or too little sleep
  • Appetite changes
  • Constant sadness
  • Apathy
  • Suicidal ideation

Everyone gets depressed now and then, but MDD can cause serious problems on the road. If you have untreated or uncontrolled MDD, the medical examiner may want to obtain additional information from your treating provider before making a certification decision. A qualified mental health provider can help you examine possible treatment plans that may enable you to become certified.

Hearing Test:

The DOT medical examiner cannot deviate from the hearing test standards. A driver must demonstrate passing hearing in at least one ear. The driver can take the test with hearing aids, though he or she will be required to wear them while driving and have extra batteries (or extra hearing aids) on hand every time they get behind the wheel. Hearing aids must not block peripheral vision or, in any other way, interfere with driving should the driver pass.

The examiner can use one or both of the following tests.

Whisper Test- This is usually the first test as it is quick, and does not need specialized equipment. The medical examiner stands at least five feet away to the side. The driver covers the opposite ear, and the examiner whispers numbers or words for the driver to repeat. If the driver fails this test on both ears, they must take and pass the audiometric test to get their medical card.

Audiometric Test- The driver listens to a series of tones through earphones or in an enclosed room if they’re wearing hearing aids. When they hear a beep, they indicate it verbally or by pushing a button.

If a driver fails both tests on both ears, they can apply for exemptions.

Cochlear Implants- A cochlear implant might be a viable option for those with extreme hearing loss. The surgeon implants an electronic device with electrodes attached to the cochlea (inner ear), which stimulates the auditory nerve. The nerve sends messages to the brain that the driver will perceive as sound. Drivers that can hear with cochlear implants can pass the hearing test.

Last Thoughts

If any of these topics create concern, take steps now to make improvements. Waiting until the day of your DOT physical could mean a temporary gap in employment. So, plan ahead and take action.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with MDD and thoughts of self-harm or suicide, talk to your personal physician or psychiatrist, or you can text or call the suicide prevention hotline (988). They provide confidential and free 24/7 support and resources to you and your loved ones.