If you’re a professional bus or truck driver, you know how rigorous the demands of your job can be. In order to ensure your and the public’s safety, you’ll most likely need to take a DOT (Department of Transportation) physical.
A DOT physical is a checkup that’s required for commercial vehicle drivers by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
This exam makes sure you’re able to meet the physical requirements of your job. This includes being able to tolerate the health risks posed by sitting for long periods of time.
If you have been told that you need a DOT physical, here’s what you need to know.
DOT physicals are required in order to obtain a commercial driver’s license.
They’re used to determine your overall physical health and ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle. These determinations ensure that you’re medically qualified to handle the intense schedule, physical demands, and emotional stress of operating commercial vehicles, under all types of conditions.
DOT physicals are required for drivers who:
- transport hazardous materials that require their vehicles to display a hazmat placard
- are paid to operate motor vehicles that carry more than eight people
- operate motor vehicles that carry more than 15 people
- operate motor vehicles that have a gross combination weight rating of over 10,000 pounds
Once you pass a DOT physical, you’ll receive a medical certificate that allows you to drive a commercial vehicle for 2 years, provided you have no underlying physical or mental condition that requires testing more often.
Some medical conditions require that you have an annual DOT physical. These include:
- diabetes mellitus
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- heart disease
If you have a medical condition such as very high blood pressure, you may be required to have physicals every 3 months while you undergo medical treatment to correct or manage the issue.
The medical examiner giving you a DOT physical will first have you fill out a medical health history form that asks questions about your health history.
Detailed health history form
You’ll be asked to provide detailed information about your health, including:
- medications you take
- surgeries you’ve had
- alcohol, tobacco, and other substances
- health symptoms or medical conditions you currently have
You also have the option of filling out this form ahead of time and bringing it with you.
At your DOT physical, you’ll be given a complete physical examination, which tests your:
- blood pressure
- other health indicators.
Urinalysis and other testing
You’ll also have a urinalysis, which provides information about blood sugar level and other health indicators. The urinalysis is also used for drug testing purposes.
You may also have your blood drawn and undergo other in-office tests, such as an electrocardiogram.
Each test you take is done to determine if you’re healthy enough to drive a commercial vehicle safely.
DOT physicals are performed by licensed medical examiners who are listed in the FMCSA National Registry. Medical examiners can be the following:
- medical doctor (MD)
- osteopathic doctor (DO)
- chiropractor (DC)
- physician assistant (PA)
- advanced practice registered nurse (APRN)
Not all licensed medical professionals are certified to give DOT exams. To find a licensed medical examiner, you can use this national registry search tool, provided by the FMCSA.
You are required to fill out a medical examination report form either during or before your physical. You can access the form here.
Filling out the form ahead of time may be less stressful than doing it at the exam. If you do it before your appointment, make sure to bring it with you.
Here’s a list of other health-related items you need to bring to a DOT physical:
- medical records, if your regular doctor or specialist is not the one giving you the exam
- medical records you have from any specialists you see, particularly if you’re being treated for a condition such as obstructive sleep apnea
- most recent laboratory results report, if you have diabetes mellitus or another condition which requires blood draws
- any auditory or visual aids (prescription glasses, hearing aids) you need while driving, so that you can use them during testing
- a list of all the prescription medications you take, including dosage and timing, as well as medication names
DOT physicals are designed to determine if you’re healthy enough to drive a commercial vehicle. Many conditions that might disqualify you can be managed.
If you can show that your condition is manageable and that you’re under a medical professional’s close care, you’ll usually be able to obtain a certificate.
Certain medical conditions may, however, disqualify you. These include:
- poor vision that is not correctable
- poorly managed diabetes mellitus
- poorly managed heart or lung disease
To prepare for the test — and improve your health:
- Make sure your medications are up to date, and take them regularly as prescribed.
- If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, have your eyes checked and your prescription updated.
- Avoid heavy drinking.
- Don’t misuse substances.
- Avoid foods that adversely affect blood pressure, such as salty snacks.
- Avoid foods that adversely affect blood glucose level, such as sugary sweets.
- Consider smoking cessation, if you smoke cigarettes or vape
- Manage your weight. Exercise more often than not, and follow a healthy diet.
If you are or wish to be a commercial vehicle driver, you’ll be required to have a DOT (Department of Transportation) physical.
This physical exam is done by a certified medical examiner.
It’s done to make sure you’re healthy enough to drive a commercial vehicle.
DOT physicals are required every 2 years for most drivers. If you have a health condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you may be required to have a DOT physical performed annually instead of every 2 years.