DOT Physical Exam: What Can I Expect?

DOT Physical Exam

DOT Physical Exam and Commercial Motor Vehicle Certification

Every truck driver is required to take and pass a DOT physical to obtain a CDL. What is a DOT medical exam you ask?

By definition, a DOT physical exam is the evaluation required in order to operate a commercial vehicle. It is referred to as a Medical Fitness For Duty Examination, which ensures that each driver is capable and healthy enough to successfully complete the duties associated with commercial driving.

If you pass the physical, you’ll get a DOT medical certificate that you’ll be required to carry around at all times.

New truck drivers are not the only drivers that have to take the exam. The Department of Transportation can ask any driver to take the test at any point of their career.

The health standards are determined by the FMCSA and each DOT physical exam must be conducted by a certified medical professional to ensure the high quality standards are met during each exam. You can find a local certified medical examiner at the end of this article by clicking on the appropriate link.

The driver’s medical history and current state of health (mental and physical) will be taken into account during the physical exam. A DOT physical exam consists of a certified medical professional completing an exam that will determine whether or not the driver is fit for work through an evaluation process relating to the daily job duties associated with a commercial driver.

The medical exam is often thought to go hand-in-hand with the commercial driver’s license (CDL). Only those drivers who need CDLs are subject to the medical exam requirements, right? That would be incorrect

For interstate drivers, this is definitely not the case. For intrastate (in-state only) drivers, it may or may not be the case.

Drivers operating the following vehicles in interstate commerce need to have a DOT medical exam:

  • Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) or gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or gross combination weight (GCW) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or more; or
  • Vehicles designed to transport more than 15 people, or more than 8 people when there is direct compensation involved; or
  • Vehicles transporting hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded.

The criterion in this definition that causes confusion is the vehicle weight. The general weight criterion for which a CDL is needed is 26,001 pounds. The weight criterion for which a physical is needed is 10,001 pounds. So, interstate drivers of vehicles between 10,001 and 26,001 pounds (not hauling hazmat) need to have a medical exam but do not need to have a CDL. (Other driver qualification requirements will apply as well.)

For intrastate drivers, it depends on what the state has adopted for the weight criterion. A number of states use the same 10,001-pound criterion as is found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Other states have increased the weight limit to anywhere from 12,000 pounds up to 26,001 pounds (which does coincide with the CDL requirements). A few states also have grandfather clauses or other exemptions that may except certain drivers from the medical requirement.

Non-CDL drivers who are subject to the medical exam requirement must have a valid medical certificate (DOT medical card) in their possession while driving, and their employing motor carrier must have a copy of the certificate in the driver’s qualification file.

Drivers who hold a CDL or commercial learner’s permit (CLP) must provide each new certificate to their state licensing agency and carry a copy for at least 15 days after issuance, until their state driving record (MVR) is updated. Their employing motor carrier must also have a copy of the certificate in the driver’s qualification file for up to 15 days. By the end of those 15 days, a new MVR must be placed in the driver’s file as proof of medical certification.

Notice: Rules, law and regulations may have changed since publication of this guide.

DOT Physical Exam Procedure

In order for you to comply with federal regulations and law, your DOT physical must be done by a registered qualified medical examiner. They will out what is known as a DOT physical form. If you need this form, you can find it at the bottom of this guide. Just click on the appropriate link.

A qualified examiner can be a doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner. The examiner will review your health history and ask you to list all current medications you take on day to day. Before you go to your review, take the time to write down all your medications so you spell them correctly.

Now, during your DOT physical, the examiner will also do the following:

  • Will check your eyesight in both eyes
  • Check your blood pressure and pulse
  • Examine your heart and lungs
  • Examine your eyes, throat, mouth, and ears
  • Will evaluate your appearance
  • Check for hernias
  • Perform a neurological exam
  • Press on your abdomen to check for abnormalities
  • Check for spine deformities

DOT Restrictions

There are some restrictions for commercial drivers who have certain health problems. If you have to inject insulin for diabetes, you won’t be able to get your commercial driver’s license. Another DOT requirement involves your eyesight as you are required to have at least 20/40 correctable vision in both eyes. The DOT does allow you to wear contact lenses or glasses to improve your vision.

The DOT physical also has a drug and alcohol component, which tests for various drugs and the current alcohol level of the driver during the exam. At this time, urine test are used to test for drugs, but carriers are pushing to add hair drug screen testing.

The DOT drug restrictions mean you can’t use narcotics, amphetamines, or other type of habit-forming drugs if you want to obtain or renew your commercial driver’s license.

About the DOT Medical Exam

A Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination must be conducted by a licensed “medical examiner” listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry. 

The term includes, but is not limited to, doctors of medicine (MD), doctors of osteopathy (DO), physician assistants (PA), advanced practice nurses (APN), and doctors of chiropractic (DC).

DOT Medical Regulations And Resources

Effective May 21, 2014, interstate commercial vehicle (CMV) drivers can no longer get a valid medical certificate from just any healthcare provider. Instead, CMV driver examinations can only be completed by Certified Medical Examiners (MEs) listed on FMCSA’s National Registry.

The National Registry provides drivers and carriers with a convenient list of medical examiners in their area who have been certified as having the knowledge to determine if a driver can safely handle the medical demands of driving a CMV.

Looking for a Certified Medical Examiner? Use the form below to search the National Registry for Certified MEs near you.

Before scheduling your next exam, make sure you can see your Medical Examiner’s name on the National Registry website. If you are unable to find your Medical Examiner, he or she is not certified and you should select another practitioner.

Finding A Medical Examiner And Medical Examiner Report Form

Looking for a medical examiner in your state? You can search for one by clicking here.

If you’re looking for Medical Examiner Report Form, you can access that right here.

Sources: FMCSA, DOT