What You Need To Know Before Your DOT Physical
The Department of Transportation requires that drivers who have a CDL get regular physicals. This ensures that all drivers are healthy and keeps everyone on the road safe.
The DOT physical is not just a regular checkup. There are specific things that the doctor is required to check for and pay attention to. There are a few things that you will want to know before going to get your DOT physical.
YOU MUST GO TO A DOT CERTIFIED PHYSICIAN
Not all general doctors will be certified to perform the DOT physical. You can obtain a list of physicians in your area from the FMCSA’s National Registry. General practitioners, family doctors, and chiropractors can all get certification to perform the physical.
WHAT DOES THE PHYSICAL CONSIST OF?
The DOT physical will consist of several parts ranging from vision and hearing to urine test and overall health questions.
You will go through several simple, routine tests during the physical. If you have glasses or contacts, bring them to the exam.
Generally, your vision will be tested by reading a chart on the wall. You will need to read the smallest letters you can read on a standardized chart or a card held 20 feet away. Your straight-on vision and your peripheral vision will be tested. You must have at least 20/40 with or without glasses or contacts to pass the test. This means that what you can see at 20 feet, someone with perfect vision can see at 40 feet. You will be asked to recognize the colors on traffic signs and signals. If your vision does not meet the requirements to pass the test, you will be required to get glasses to correct your vision problem before you will be passed.
You will have a hearing test. This test consists of being able to hear a forced whisper from the side, from at least 5 feet away. If you are unable to pass the hearing test, you might be required to get hearing assistance such as hearing aids. If you already have hearing aids, you should wear them during the exam.
Your blood pressure and pulse rate will be checked. It should be below 150/90 in order to pass. If your blood pressure is in an elevated range, you will be advised to see your regular physician to begin treatment to lower your blood pressure. Your doctor will advise you about ways to lower your blood pressure such as diet, exercise, and possibly medication.
If you are put on a blood pressure medication, you might be given a period of time to lower your blood pressure, such as 3-6 months. After that time, you will be able to return to the DOT certified physician and receive the physical again to see if the treatment was effective.
You will only be given a one-year certification if you are on blood pressure medication.
There are various ways that the physician might test for your overall health. One of these ways is to check your BMI. Often these tests are performed by taking measurements of your body and charting them. Your neck size is often a good indicator of obesity and if the physician uses this method, your neck size should be under 17 inches for men and 16 for women.
SLEEP APNEA AND A SLEEP TEST
Because sleep apnea can cause daytime fatigue, vision problems, and slower reaction times, you might have to undergo a sleep apnea test. This will be scheduled for another day. It will involve being monitored while sleeping to see if you need to be prescribed a sleep apnea machine.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea and use a sleep apnea machine, you can still get your certification.
You will be asked to give a urine sample. Urine samples will be tested in a lab for blood, sugar, and protein so the physician can tell whether you have any underlying health problems that might be a concern. This is not a drug test although, any signs of drug use will be noted.
Otherwise, you will receive a regular physical that consists of all of the usual things that you would expect. The physician will listen to your heart, look at your overall appearance, and check for anything out of the ordinary. Your eyes, ears, mouth, and throat will all be visually examined. The physician will listen to your lungs and breathing for any problems.
The physician will also check for basic balance and reflexes and speech problems.
You will be asked the usual questions about your health and overall well-being. Tell the physician about any medications that you are currently taking.
If you cannot meet the requirements for the vision, hearing, diabetes, or other overall health parts of the DOT physical, you may be eligible for an exemption. In this case, you would still be able to drive a truck as long as your condition is not dangerous to yourself or others.
HOW LONG CAN YOU GET CERTIFICATION FOR?
The length of your certification varies and depends on several factors. A normal certification is two years. There are certain medications that can prevent you from receiving a year or more certification. You will still be able to receive certification but you will have to renew in a few months, rather than a year or two.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE EXAM
The physician will give you a copy of the results of your exam after it is finished. You will also be given a Medical Examiner's Certificate. The physician will electronically submit your medical report to the DOT, and it will be included in the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS).
You will be required to update your certification with the State Driver Licensing Agency before it expires.
If you fail to update your certification the SDLA will notify you that you are longer medically certified to drive a commercial vehicle and will downgrade your driver license to "non-CDL".