If you’re a professional truck or bus driver, you may have been told that you need a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical. Mandated by federal law, this checkup clears you for driving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and helps ensure that you and fellow CMV drivers can handle the long hours, exhausting schedules, and stress of operating commercial vehicles.
What is the DOT physical?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets regulations for safe operation of commercial vehicles in the country. Each state also has specific regulations. The test assesses your general health, as well as mental and emotional fitness for the demands of professional driving.
The FMCSA requires all commercial drivers to carry a certificate of good health, which you’ll receive upon passing your DOT Medical Examination. Only medical professionals who are listed on the FMCSA National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners can issue your certificate. Those listed on the registry have had the proper training in FMCSA regulations to determine if you’re healthy enough to work safely and ensure that you’re not wrongly disqualified.
Do I need a DOT Physical?
Yes if you fall into one of these categories:
- You operate a motor vehicle designed to carry more than 15 people.
- You are paid to operate a motor vehicle designed to carry more than 8 people.
- You operate a motor vehicle with a gross combination weight rating, gross vehicle weight, gross vehicle weight rating, or gross combination weight of over 10,000 pounds.
- You transport hazardous materials that require your vehicle to be placarded.
Where can I get one?
Before your appointment, fill out the Medical Examination Report form and bring it with you to the examination. Also be sure to bring your driver’s license and previous certificate if you have one. The fee due at the time of service is $85. Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t usually cover these appointments, however some companies will reimburse their employees.
What happens in the exam?
Before the appointment, you’ll fill out the previously mentioned Medical Examination Report form. Use the form to indicate any prior or current health conditions. These may include:
- Brain injuries or neurological disorders
- Epilepsy or seizures
- Loss of hearing
- Heart attack or heart disease
- Impaired vision
- Kidney disease
- Digestive problems
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Dizziness or fainting
- Missing limbs
- Spinal cord injuries
- Chronic pain
Be honest in this form. If you’re not, you could have your certificate revoked.
Your doctor will go over this form and ask additional questions. He or she will check your lung function, heart, digestive track, and coordination. You’ll also take some basic tests including:
- Blood pressure measurement
- Vision check
- Hearing test
- Urinalysis for glucose levels and drug screen
The visit takes about 45 minutes.
How often do I need an exam?
Most medical certificates are good for two years. However, if you have low blood pressure or high blood pressure, or any other condition that may inhibit your ability to drive, you may receive a 1-year certificate. And if you have very high blood pressure or other treatable conditions, you may receive a 3-month certificate. After 3 months, if you show improvement in that condition, you’ll be eligible to get a 1 or 2-year certificate.
Unfortunately, sometimes drivers begin suffering from a condition (after receiving their certificate) that makes it unsafe to carry out their responsibilities on the job. If this is the case, you must stop driving, have the condition treated, and then take your DOT physical again to ensure your safety as well as that of fellow drivers.
What happens if I fail?
If you fail the exam, this does not necessarily prohibit you from becoming a driver. Talk with your doctor about your disqualifying condition. If you can improve it with treatment, discuss a plan to address it and try again.
The FMCSA has driver exemption programs for some people with diabetes, impaired vision or hearing, or other disabilities. Your doctor can help you decide if you’re eligible for those programs.
According to the latest statistics from the FMCSA, large truck and bus fatalities have decreased 17% since 2003. Injury crashes have also dropped 18% and property-damage-only incidents have declined 27%. The industry’s focus on safety has been paying off, and your DOT physical plays an important role in CMV safety. At Comprehensive Primary Care, we make this exam easy and convenient for you. Contact us with any questions or to set up your appointment.