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High Blood Pressure And Its Effect On Your Driving Career

by Patrick Netzel

What Should Truck Drivers Know About Blood Pressure and Hypertension?

  • Drivers who have high blood pressure CAN be medically certified to drive.
  • A driver's blood pressure must be at or below 140/90, with or without medication.
  • Drivers who are taking blood pressure medication can be certified to drive as long as their blood pressure is under 140/90.
  • A DOT medical certification for drivers with high blood pressure can initially be anywhere from 3 months to 1 year, depending on severity. Recertification will be required yearly after that. Drivers will still have to keep their blood pressure under 140/90.
  • Your DOT physical will be filed electronically by the Medical Examiner (ME), and will become part of your driving record.
  • There are a variety of methods you can use to help lower your blood pressure, both in the short-term and the long-term.

Truck Drivers and Levels Of Hypertension:

The FMCSA and the DOT use the medically accepted classifications of hypertension as a guideline for the physical. The medical examiner will transmit the results of the driver's physical to the DOT electronically, so drivers really have no choice but to try to get high blood pressure under control and keep it under control one way or another.

Many drivers choose to take prescribed medication to reduce their blood pressure, while some will use only lifestyle changes to bring it down without medication. Either method is acceptable, as long as it brings blood pressure to under 140/90. Recertification for drivers whose blood pressure has been measured at over 140/90 will be required every year, rather than every two years.

Classes Of Hypertension And Medical Certifications

  • Stage 1 Hypertension: Blood Pressure 140/90 - 150/99.

    Drivers with Stage 1 hypertension can be medically certified for one year, rather than the normal 2-year certification. At recertification, truck drivers blood pressure must be at 140/90 or below to pass.

    If a drivers blood pressure is still above 140/90 at recertification, a 3-month non-renewable certificate will be issued. After that 3-month cert expires, a driver whose BP is still not under control will be disqualified from driving and taken out of service until it is.

  • Stage 2 Hypertension: Blood Pressure 160/100 - 179/109.

    Drivers with Stage 2 hypertension can only be issued a 3-month certification. In order to receive the remainder of the 12-month cert, blood pressure must be brought down to under 140/90, with or without medication.

    If after 3 months a drivers BP is still over 140/90, the driver is disqualified from driving and taken out of service until it is. Recertification will be required yearly after that.

  • Stage 3 Hypertension: Blood Pressure 180/110+.

    Drivers are immediately disqualified from driving, and no medical certification is issued. On the follow-up visits, if a driver has lowered their blood pressure to under 140/90 they can be issued a 6-month medical certificate, issued from the original disqualification date.

    Drivers diagnosed with Stage 3 hypertension will then be required to recertify every 6 months.

What Blood Pressure Medications Can Drivers Take?

The DOT and FMCSA don't keep a "master list" of prescribed medications that drivers are either allowed or prohibited from taking. FMCSA guidelines leave it up to a driver's personal physician in combination with the ME to make sure that any blood pressure medication a driver is taking will not "adversely affect a driver's ability to operate a CMV safely"

What Are Some Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension many times will not cause any noticeable symptoms. It is typically a chronic condition that causes damage over a period of years if left uncontrolled. Please see your doctor ASAP if you are experiencing any of these and have concerns.

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tiredness
  • Vision changes
  • Severe headache
  • Nosebleed
  • Confusion
  • Blood in your urine
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pounding in your neck, ears, or chest

How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Your Health?

  • Those with high blood pressure will have a higher risk for heart disease and various other potentially serious conditions.
  • Hypertension can damage your arteries, hardening and thickening them. This can cause fat to collect inside them and restrict blood flow, leading to an entire cascade of life-threatening bodily damage.
  • The constant pressure of blood flowing through weakened arteries can lead to an aneurysm. An aneurysm is a localized, balloon-like, blood-filled bulge in blood vessel's wall.
  • In addition, poor blood circulation and and damage to blood vessels can lead to brain damage and impairment, and strokes, as well as kidney damage and failure,
  • High blood pressure can also result in damage to your eyes, if there is damage to the blood vessels supplying them. This will make it doubly hard to get medically certified to drive a truck, if you can no longer see.
  • High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension's effects on your body

High Blood Pressure Can Lead To Emergency Situations

Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can land you in the hospital, or worse. Long term hypertension can lead to medical emergencies such as:

  • Brain damage, memory loss, concentration issues
  • Heart attack
  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Stroke
  • Damage to your body's main artery
  • Sudden kidney failure
  • Seizures in pregnant women
  • Fluid backup into the lungs, leading to shortness of breath

Get Checked Out Ahead Of Time

If you're considering a career in trucking and you know your blood pressure may be a concern, get it looked after right away. Get your blood pressure tested and speak with your doctor about getting a DOT approved medication if need be.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

CMV:

Commercial Motor Vehicle

A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

Hypertension:

Abnormally high blood pressure.

Fm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

by Brett Aquila

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