In order to operate a commercial vehicle professionally, drivers must obtain two very important documents: a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and a valid Department of Transportation (DOT) medical card. These documents help certify that commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are medically fit to safely operate large vehicles and minimize the risk of safety incidents.
To obtain a valid DOT medical card, truck drivers must successfully complete the DOT physical exam every 1–2 years. The DOT exam can be performed by any licensed medical examiner who is listed in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry.
So, CMV drivers need to pass the DOT exam in order to maintain employment, but why is it required? Keep reading to learn all about why the DOT physical exam is required and how to obtain a DOT medical card.
What is a DOT Physical Exam?
The DOT medical exam is a physical examination required by the FMCSA. It certifies that CMV drivers are physically and mentally fit enough to perform their jobs safely and that they do not have any medical conditions that will interfere with their job performance.
The exam consists of two main parts: a medical history review and a physical examination.
Who needs to get a DOT Physical Exam?
The DOT physical exam is required for CMV drivers who operate 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 the medical history form before your visit.
During the DOT physical examination, a certified medical examiner will check things such as:
• height and weight
• blood pressure
• vision test
• hearing loss
• vascular system and pulse rate
• mouth and throat
• blood sugar levels
• lungs and breathing
• neurological issues and reflexes
• sleep apnea and narcolepsy
• and more
How often do you need a DOT Physical Exam?
In most cases, the DOT medical examiner’s certificate is valid for up to two years.
However, in some cases, an underlying medical condition will require a CMV driver to have an exam more frequently. Some conditions that require annual or quarterly testing to monitor your health include:
- unmanaged diabetes
- very high blood pressure (hypertension)
- heart disease
If health conditions are well-managed and improve, then a driver can be cleared for a medical card that is good for one to two years.
Why do you need a DOT Physical Exam?
Operating a CMV is no small feat! With the intense schedules, long hours, and mental stress and exhaustion, becoming a CMV operator can put the driver’s life at risk, as well as the lives and safety of the general public. Not just anyone is qualified for this job — drivers must be in good health with high awareness of surroundings, quick reflexes, and sound judgment skills.
Therefore, the DOT physical is a comprehensive health evaluation. The goal is to identify and prevent any medical reasons that could interfere with the safe operation of a commercial vehicle and keep everyone safe.
The exam includes things such as vision and hearing tests to ensure that CMV drivers can see and hear well enough to be aware of their surroundings, safely operate a vehicle, and avoid potential accidents. Screening for health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy, high blood pressure, and hernias is important to minimize the risk of a driver having a medical emergency while driving. Finally, while the DOT exam does not include a drug test, questions about the use of controlled substances is included in the medical history section in order to minimize the occurrence of impaired driving.
How to prepare for your DOT Physical Exam?
To prepare for your exam and minimize the risk of disqualifying for a DOT card, you should do your best to take care of your health and wellness. Focus on eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping your mind sharp, and avoiding excessive smoking or drinking.
It is also best to regularly see a healthcare professional and keep up to date with things like your vision prescription and any medications or treatment regimens (if prescribed).
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, including your primary care physician and any specialists
- A complete list of any medication you are taking, including the dosage and prescribing doctor’s name
- Eyeglasses, corrective lenses, and/or hearing aids, if you use them to drive
- Any letters or medical records from specialist doctors regarding special health conditions and your health history
How Much Does a DOT physical cost?
Since the DOT physical is a requirement of the job, many employers will cover some or all of the cost for you. Otherwise, the cost is $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 in New York City?
At Great City Medical in New York City, our doctors provide DOT Physical Exams. Feel free to give us a call if you have general questions about DOT exams, or if you want to schedule an appointment!