What New Drivers Need To Know About The DOT Physical:
In order to drive a commercial vehicle in the U.S. with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 lbs in interstate commerce , drivers are required to pass a physical examination given by a DOT-approved medical examiner to obtain and maintain a medical examiner's certificate.
Drivers receive a medical certification which is normally valid for 2 years. Your medical exam will be transmitted and stored electronically in the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS). Failure to update your medical certification with your state licensing agency by the date it expires will AUTOMATICALLY downgrade your license to "non-CDL".
Please note that some drivers who have problems meeting the requirements for the Diabetes, Vision, Hearing, or Physical Impairment parts of the DOT physical can be eligible for a Driver Exemption Program
Drivers will be required to submit a "self-certification" to their state driver's licensing agency (SDLA), to declare their intent to drive commercially in 1 of 4 possible categories. This information will be added to the driver's CDLIS record.
Under the recently enacted FAST Act, military veterans will be allowed to have their DOT physical done by a qualified physician through the Veteran's Administration, rather than National Registry ME's.
CMV driver examinations can only be completed by Certified Medical Examiners (MEs) listed on the FMCSA’s National Registry.
Drivers can look over the Official Medical Examination Report 649-F (6045) that your Medical Examiner will fill out and transmit to the DOT after your physical.
What Will The DOT Physical Cover?
You will be asked about your medical/health history, including whether you've had the following: These conditions WILL NOT automatically disqualify you from driving a truck. As always, it is important to be completely up-front with your information. Your job, your safety, and that of others, depend on it.
- Loss of hearing
- Digestive problems
- Psychiatric disorders
- Dizziness or fainting
- Alcohol/Drug Use
- Missing limbs
- Spinal cord injuries
- Impaired vision
- Kidney disease
- Chronic pain
- Brain injuries or neurological disorders, Epilepsy or seizures
- Heart attack or heart disease
- Respiratory (breathing) Conditions
Drivers will be required to certify that the information they give is accurate and true, and that false or missing information may, and probably will, invalidate their Medical Certificate.
What Does The DOT Physical Exam Process Include?
The physical exam itself will consist of:
Your eyes will be tested, both separately and together, using a standard Snellen eye chart. You know, "now cover your right eye and read line 3", and all that jazz?
Your ability to hear, or not hear, sounds and tones at specific distances and frequencies will be tested and evaluated.
Your blood pressure and pulse rate will be taken, abnormally high readings/hypertension may result in a shorter medical certification.
Your urine sample will be tested in a lab for blood, sugar, and protein, which might indicate hidden health problems. Note that Drug & Alcohol Testing will be done by the trucking companies during the pre-employment process.
Physical Examination: The rest of your body parts will be checked for abnormalities, including:
Marked overweight, tremors (shakes), signs of drinking/drug abuse or problems.
Will be checked for size equality, adjustment to light, proper movement and coordination. You will be asked about a history of cataracts, glaucoma, and other issues which may require a follow-up with a specialist.
Will be checked for visible signs of scarring or blockage, as well as for holes in your eardrums.
Mouth & Throat:
Will be checked for physical deformities that could interfere with breathing or swallowing.
Checked for murmurs and extra sounds, enlarged heart, pacemaker and implantable defibrillator. If you don't know what an "implantable defibrillator" is, you don't have one.
Lungs & Chest:
Abnormal sounds and breathing rates. Anything out of the ordinary may require further tests, such as x-rays.
Abdomen & Organs:
Will be checked for enlarged liver & spleen, unusual masses, sounds, hernias and weaknesses.
Vascular (blood movement) System:
Abnormal or weak pulse, normal blood flow, varicose veins.
Will be checked for hernias.
Loss or damaged limbs or digits. Limp, deformities, weakness or other deficiencies of use in arms, legs, hands, feet, grasp and strength.
Deformities, limitation of movement, tenderness.
Neurological (The brain and the nervous system):
Balance/equilibrium, reflexes, speech coordination.
DOT Physical Driver Exemptions:
In the event that a driver cannot meet the requirements for the Vision, Diabetes, Hearing, or Physical Impairment part of the DOT physical, he/she may be eligible for a driver exemption.
See Also: DOT Physical - Driver Exemptions
See Also: FMCSA Driver Exemption Details
What are the physical qualifications for driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle?Some drivers who cannot meet the DOT qualifications for diabetes, physical impairments and vision can be granted an exemption by the FMCSA. Please see DOT Physical Exemptions for more details.
Has no loss of a foot, leg, hand, or arm, unless they have been granted a skill performance evaluation certificate. Basically, a waiver granted by the FMSCA that says, yes, you CAN drive a truck without that limb, providing that you actually can.
See: Driver Exemptions.
- Has no impairment of a hand or finger that prevents grasping, or arm, foot, or leg which would interfere with driving a truck.
- Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes mellitus currently requiring insulin for control. The DOT provides for an exemption for diabetes cases, on a case-by-case basis. Diabetes Exemption
- Has no current clinical diagnosis of myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, coronary insufficiency, thrombosis, or any other cardiovascular disease of a variety known to be accompanied by syncope, dyspnea, collapse, or congestive cardiac failure. You have no known heart conditions and your heart is healthy and not likely to give out behind the wheel.
- Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of a respiratory dysfunction likely to interfere with his/her ability to control and drive a commercial motor vehicle safely. You have no condition which prevents your heart and lungs from working well together to provide you with enough oxygen.
- Has no current clinical diagnosis of high blood pressure likely to interfere with his/her ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely. Drivers who have high blood pressure CAN be medically certified, under limitations, by the Medical Examiner. See: Hypertension
- Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of epilepsy or any other condition which is likely to cause loss of consciousness or any loss of ability to control a commercial motor vehicle.
- Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of rheumatic, arthritic, orthopedic, muscular, neuromuscular, or vascular disease which interferes with his/her ability to control and operate a commercial motor vehicle safely.
- Has no mental, nervous, organic, or functional disease or psychiatric disorder likely to interfere with his/her ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle safely. Are you crazy? Generally, people diagnosed as mentally unbalanced will have to answer more questions about their condition before being passed.
- Has distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or visual acuity separately corrected to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses, distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both eyes with or without corrective lenses, field of vision of at least 70° in the horizontal Meridian in each eye, and the ability to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green, and amber.You must have clear vision, at least 20/40 with or without glasses/contacts (what you can see at 20 feet, someone with perfect vision can see at 40), your eyes can see side-to-side normally, and you can recognize the colors on traffic signs and signals. In certain cases, drivers that cannot pass the normal vision test can be granted a Vision Exemption.
- First perceives a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than 5 feet with or without the use of a hearing aid or, if tested by use of an audiometric device (an electronic machine used to measure hearing loss), does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500 Hz, 1,000 Hz, and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid. There are "normal" and acceptable ranges of hearing, and this will test whether you fall into them.
- Has no current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism.
- Does not use any Schedule I drugs, amphetamines, narcotics or or other habit-forming drugs.
Prescription drugs taken regularly for chronic conditions will require your doctor to be familiar with your medical history and advise you that the substance will not negatively affect your ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.
While the FMCSA does not maintain a specific list of prohibited prescription drugs, it does specifically prohibit methadone and anti-seizure medication:
Per FMCSA guidelines, a driver is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if he/she:
What Happens After I Take The Physical?
If the medical examiner finds that the person he/she examined is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), the medical examiner will furnish one copy of the results to the person who was examined and complete a Medical Examiner's Certificate. The ME will also electronically transmit your medical report to the DOT, and it will be included in the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS).
If a driver fails to update his medical certification with the State Driver Licensing Agency before it expires, the SDLA will notify you that he is no longer medically certified to drive a CMV , and will downgrade the driver license to "non-CDL" status.
In the event that a driver cannot meet the requirements for the Vision, Diabetes, or Physical Impairment part of the DOT physical, he/she may be eligible for a driver exemption. Please see Driver Exemption Programs for more information.
Where Will The DOT Physical Be Given?
The FMCSA has created a registry of Certified Medical Examiners (ME's), which drivers are required to use for their DOT physicals.
You can find a registered ME near you at the FMCSA at the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners home page.
You can find an ME by typing in your city and state, or zip code, and you will be given a list of examiners in your area.