Working as a commercial truck driver can be a very demanding job. Operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is a large responsibility, as you are responsible for both your own safety and the public safety of many others. CMV drivers often have to manage long hours, intense physical demands, and mental stress.
That’s why CMV operators are required to pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam to ensure that they are fit to perform their job safely under all conditions.
If you have to pass a DOT exam to perform your job as a commercial driver or are just interested in learning more about the exam, keep reading for all the information you need and learn how to make an appointment today.
What is the Exam?
The DOT medical exam is an extensive health check-up that is required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for jobs requiring a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The point of the exam is to certify that commercial drivers are fit to perform their jobs safely and that they do not have any medical conditions that will interfere with their abilities.
The exam consists of two main parts: a medical history review and a physical examination.
When is a DOT Physical Exam required?
The DOT physical exam is required for many drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL). You’ll need a medical exam if you drive a vehicle that:
- has a gross vehicle weight of over 10,000 pounds;
- is paid to transport over 8 passengers, including the driver;
- is used to transport over 15 passengers, including the driver;
- or hauls hazardous materials that require a placard.
What is included in a DOT Physical Exam?
The DOT exam includes a comprehensive review of your medical history and a physical examination by a certified medical examiner.
For the medical history portion, you must fill out medical history form that includes questions about:
- any current medications
- any history of health conditions
- if you’ve ever had surgery
- use of illicit substances and drug testing history
- any current symptoms
- other relevant parts of your health history
To help make your visit quick and efficient, you can fill out the medical history form in advance of your visit.
During the DOT physical examination, your certified medical examiner will check things such as:
- height and weight
- blood pressure
- vision test
- hearing test
- vascular system and pulse rate
- mouth and throat
- urine test
- blood sugar levels
- lungs and breathing
- nervous system and reflexes
- and more
How often do you need a DOT Physical Exam?
In most cases, if you pass the exam, you’ll receive a DOT medical card that is valid for up to two years. You’ll need to have an exam every two years as long as you drive a commercial vehicle.
In some cases, if you have an underlying medical condition you’ll be required to have an exam more frequently. Some conditions that require annual or quarterly testing to monitor your health include:
- very high blood pressure (hypertension)
- heart disease
While more frequent testing can be a bit inconvenient, it helps keep you healthy and minimize the risk of impairment or injury while operating a commercial vehicle. If over time your treatable health condition improves (such as high blood pressure), you may be eligible to receive a medical card that is good for one to two years.
Is it possible to fail your DOT Physical Exam?
It is possible to fail your DOT exam if your health does not meet the DOT physical requirements. Reasons for failing the exam might include:
- failed vision or hearing test
- poorly managed health conditions such as very high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart or lung disease
- controlled substance abuse or failed drug testing
If you fail your exam and believe you are fit to operate a CMV, you have the right to receive a second opinion from another doctor. Also, you can re-apply if your medical conditions improve. However, you cannot apply again if you fail a second time.
How to prepare for your DOT Physical Exam?
To prepare for your DOT exam and maximize your likelihood of passing, you should do your best to take care of your health and wellness. Focus on eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding excessive smoking or drinking.
What do you need to bring to the DOT Physical Exam?
To help the exam run quickly and smoothly, it is best to bring anything you think might be relevant to your health and ability to perform work. Things to bring might include:
- A complete list of your doctors and their contact information
- A complete list of any medication you are taking, including the dosage and prescribing doctor’s name
- A letter from your doctor if you’re taking any medicines that can cause sleepiness
- A letter from your doctor if you’re taking the blood thinner called Coumadin
- Eyeglasses, contact lenses, and/or hearing aids, if you use them
- If you have diabetes, recent Hemoglobin A1C (HgAIC) test results and blood sugar logs
- If you have a sleep disturbance such as sleep apnea, a data readout from your machine of at least 90 days
- If you have a history of heart disease or other heart health issues, a letter from your cardiologist and/or results from any recent stress testing
- If you have any history of brain injury, a letter from your neurologist
- A letter from your doctor if you’ve lost permanent use of an arm or leg, including any work restrictions
How Much Does a DOT physical cost?
Many employers who require a DOT exam will cover the cost for you. However, the cost of the exam will be $100. Call our offices today and we can help you determine the cost of getting a DOT physical exam.
Where can you get a DOT Physical Exam?
At Great City Medical in New York City, we provide DOT Physical Exams. Call our offices today to make an appointment!