The US Department of Transportation requires drivers to undergo a physical examination every two years. DOT physical examinations evaluate the overall condition of drivers to ensure they are fit to operate commercial vehicles. A DOT physical follows strict guidelines laid down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Only an FMCSA-certified examiner can conduct a DOT physical and issue a certification.
The guidelines can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect. To help you prepare, here are details on what a DOT physical involves.
Medical History Review
Before the exam, your examiner will look over your medical history. Be sure to bring all the necessary documents, such as a complete list of medications. You will complete the driver information portion of the Medical Examination Report Form, which includes your health history. The medical examiner may ask further questions to gather more information.
Be honest and thorough in the information you provide. Lying about your medical history can result in a civil penalty and invalidate the examination and certificate.
During the examination, the examiner will test the following:
The vision requirement is at least 20/40 in each eye. You are also required to have at least a 70° horizontal peripheral vision in each eye. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, be sure to bring them during your exam.
The medical examiner will conduct a whisper test to check your hearing. You will stand 5 feet away from the examiner with one ear covered. The ear undergoing the whisper test will be turned toward the examiner. The examiner will whisper words or random numbers and record how well you hear them. You may use your hearing aids if you have them. If you fail, the examiner will administer an audiometric test.
3. Blood Pressure, Pulse Rate, and Rhythm, Height, and Weight
The medical examiner will also check your blood pressure, height, weight, and pulse rate and rhythm. All this will give the examiner an idea of your current health.
You will be asked for a urine sample, as well. The urinalysis intends to check for medical conditions, such as diabetes. The presence of high levels of protein or sugar in the urine may indicate underlying medical conditions.
5. Drug and Alcohol Testing
The examiner may also ask you to undergo drug and alcohol testing. Some types of drug tests include hair testing, urine testing, and oral fluid testing. Some of the common types of drugs tested for are amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, and opioids.
6. Physical Examination
The examiner will also check your general appearance and look for abnormalities. This includes your:
- Mouth and throat
- Extremities and joints
- Genito-urinary system
- Neurological (reflexes, speech pattern, impaired equilibrium, etc.)
- Vascular system
Determination of the Examiner
Your examiner will determine if you are fit to drive a commercial vehicle and when your next exam will be due. You will be given a laminated DOT card, which will be valid for two years. The card may also indicate if you need periodic monitoring or if your certification is pending.