What Is a DOT Physical? What You Need to Know

November 10, 2021
by Dot Exam Locations
What Is a DOT Physical? What You Need to Know

For those who work in the trucking industry, staying on top of regulations is a key to remaining employed. From ensuring that your commercial vehicle meets federal requirements to retaining a CDL license, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to the operation of our nation’s supply chain.

One such important requirement for commercial truck drivers is the DOT physical, commonly referred to as the DOT exam. For those who are interested in becoming a commercial truck driver, or for those simply seeking more information about this required exam, the following guide will break down commonly asked questions.

What is a DOT exam?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is dedicated to improving the safety of commercial motor vehicles. A branch of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), the FMCSA outlines key regulations and requirements for commercial vehicle operations, including the requirement for all drivers to pass a DOT physical examination.

A DOT exam is a basic physical exam aimed at ensuring that all commercial vehicle drivers are fit to operate a commercial vehicle.

Who can administer a DOT or CDL exam?

As outlined by the FMCSA, a DOT or CDL exam must be administered by a licensed medical examiner. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Doctors of medicine (MDs)
  • Doctors of osteopathy (DOs)
  • Physician assistants (PAs)
  • Advanced practice nurses (APNs)
  • Doctors of chiropractic (DCs)

Keep in mind that not all medical examiners with these license types administer DOT exams. It is important to search for specific DOT physical providers when scheduling an exam.

What does it take to pass a DOT physical?

Passing a DOT physical is a short process. The goal of the exam is to ensure that you are healthy enough to safely operate a commercial vehicle.

The exam will include a look at your medical history. You may be asked about any past surgeries you have had, as well as a list of current medications you take.

Your medical examiner will discuss your current and past use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances, as well as any existing health symptoms or medical concerns you have.

Often, this information will be gathered on a form, which you can fill out prior to the exam.

In addition to self-reporting your medical conditions, during the DOT exam, your medical examiner may test your hearing, vision, and blood pressure. They may require a urinalysis to ensure that your blood sugar levels are healthy, as well as to test for drug use.

So what will cause you to fail a DOT physical? According to Healthline, there are a few specific medical conditions that could disqualify you from passing your DOT exam. These conditions include:

  • Poor vision that cannot be corrected
  • Deafness
  • Narcolepsy
  • Epilepsy

Keep in mind that other medical conditions have the potential to disqualify you as well if they are not properly managed. For example, heart or lung disease may disqualify you from passing the exam if you are not managing the disease in a way deemed adequate.

On the flip side, if you have concerns about a medical condition that may disqualify you, talk to your healthcare provider. Many conditions can be easily managed, allowing you to pass the DOT physical without issue.

A licensed examiner can provide you with the best advice on how to ensure you are healthy and fit enough to operate a commercial vehicle.

If you have further questions or concerns about medical requirements, visit the FMCSA’s FAQ page.

How should I prepare for a DOT physical?

Before you schedule a DOT physical, there are a few things you can do to make the exam process smooth.

For starters, if possible, fill out your medical history prior to the exam. Often, these forms require detailed information and it can be easier to fill this out ahead of time.

Additionally, if you take any prescription medications, make sure you are following your doctor’s orders on the frequency of use.

In the case of any vision issues, be sure that you have recently had an eye exam and that your prescription for glasses or contacts is current.

If you use a hearing aid, make sure that you bring the hearing aid to your exam as well.

How long is a DOT physical exam valid for?

If you pass a DOT physical, your exam will be valid for two years, unless you have a specific medical condition that requires an annual exam.

Your medical examiner will inform you of whether or not your certificate is valid for one or two years.

What do you receive after a DOT exam?

After a DOT exam, if the medical examiner finds that you are physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle, you will be provided a copy of the results for your recordkeeping. Make sure to store this safely and consider creating a backup copy for your own records.

Where can I find a DOT exam location?

If you need to locate a DOT physical provider, search for a DOT exam near you. DOT exam locations are available around the country and locating a DOT exam provider near you will make it convenient and efficient to check this requirement off your to-do list.