What Does a DOT Physical Consist Of?

If you're pursuing a career in certain industries, a DOT physical is essential. This exam assesses your fitness for the demands of commercial driving. Industries involving large vehicles, hazardous materials, and passenger transport require this health evaluation. It's conducted by certified medical examiners who assess your general health, vision, hearing, blood pressure, and more. Preparation involves gathering your medications and, if applicable, specialized equipment like hearing aids. After a thorough examination, your eligibility for work is determined. If you fail, consider discussing potential improvement or exemption programs with your medical examiner. Keep your occupational health and safety in check with a DOT physical.
over the road truck with open trailer

Getting your DOT physical is a necessary step to becoming a commercial driver. To ensure safety on the road, the Department of Transportation requires drivers in certain industries to have a health examination. The DOT designates some employees as “safety-sensitive,” which means that their job impacts their safety and the safety of others. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is a subsect of the DOT, mandates the guidelines by which a DOT health examination is conducted. Individual states may have additional guidelines and regulations. The goal of a DOT physical is to determine potential or current employees’ fitness, ability to perform on the job, and ability to withstand the rigors of driving a commercial vehicle. Here’s what you can expect at your appointment.

Who Needs a DOT Physical?

The DOT requires health examinations for a variety of professional drivers. If you work in one of the following industries or operate one of the following types of vehicles, you need to make sure you are up to date on your physical:

  • If you operate a motor vehicle designed to transport more than fifteen people.
  • If you are paid to operate a motor vehicle designed to carry more than eight people.
  • If your vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.
  • If you transport hazardous materials that require your vehicle to be placarded.

How to Prepare for a DOT Physical?

DOT physicals can only be performed by licensed medical examiners listed on the FMCSA National Registry. Examiners may be medical doctors (MD), osteopathic doctors (DO), physician assistants (PA), chiropractic doctors (DC), and advanced nurse practitioners (APN). Once you book an appointment with a licensed medical examiner, complete the Driver’s Information portion of the Medical Examination Report Form. Be sure to bring this form with you to your appointment.

Be sure to compile a complete list of your medications, including dosage regimens and the prescribing doctors’ names. Additionally, drivers with certain medical issues should bring the necessary equipment such as:

  • If you have vision loss, bring your glasses and contacts.
  • If you have hearing loss, bring your hearing aids.
  • If you have diabetes, bring recent blood sugar readings and recent lab results from hemoglobin A1C (HgA1C).
  • If you have heart issues, bring a letter from your cardiologist that outlines your medical history and indicates you are safe to work.
  • If you have sleep apnea, bring your CAP machine record. 

What to Expect

During your DOT physical, your medical examiner will perform several tests. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the general requirements and tests set forth by the FMCSA:

  • Vision Test: The candidate must have at least 20/40 acuity in each eye with or without corrective lenses and 70” peripheral in each eye.
  • Hearing Test: The candidate must be able to perceive a “forced whisper” at a distance of 5 feet or less, with or without hearing aids.
  • Blood Pressure: Examiner will check blood pressure and look for high pressure and irregular heartbeats.
  • Urinalysis: Examiner will take a sample of urine to look for possible underlying medical conditions.

Additionally, the examiner will perform a variety of physical examinations including, but not limited to, physical appearance, mouth and throat, lungs and chest, spine, and neurological function.

What to Expect

The DOT physical covers a wide range of categories, including general appearance, vision, hearing, vascular, and neurological tests. The examination should take approximately 45 minutes to complete. After the appointment, the examiner determines if you are fit for work. If you fail the examination, talk with your medical examiner about your disqualifying condition and determine if there is a way to improve the condition. The DOT has several driver exemption programs for disabilities like vision, hearing, or diabetes. Your doctor can help you decide if you are eligible for any program.

Your Medical Exam and Commercial Motor Vehicle Certification are generally valid for 24 months. Still, examiners may issue certificates for less than 24 months to monitor conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. 

A DOT physical is an important step in maintaining your occupational health and safety while on the job. The Department of Transportation requires transportation workers to complete a DOT physical if their work affects the safety of themselves or the general public. At Work Health Solutions, we provide comprehensive DOT physicals that test vision, hearing, and blood pressure, among other health factors. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!

How Can We Help?

Work Health Solutions offers comprehensive healthcare solutions for your medical needs. Our qualified team treats patients and employers alike and always provides top-quality service. Our quality service is backed by years of experience working with academic and research institutions, corporate healthcare, Fortune 25 companies, small governments, and local businesses. Reach out today with any questions you may have about how we can assist you!

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Work Health Solutions

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A series of notable accomplishments distinguish Dr. Michael Tenison’s career in medical operations and healthcare management:

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Dr. Matt Feeley is a renowned figure in military aviation medicine, with a robust background in occupational and environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

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A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

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Expert in benefits design and onsite innovation with specialization in the pharmaceutical industry.

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