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FAQ: Truck Driver's DOT Physical & Medical Certification

Last Updated: Sep 29, 2016

Truck Drivers DOT Physical & Medical Certification - Frequently Asked Questions

What does the DOT physical check?

The physical will check your overall health, including vision, hearing, blood pressure, and a urinalysis. The examiner will also check things like your general appearance, pulse, limbs and extremities. If it's part of your body, expect it to be included in the DOT physical.

How long is the DOT medical certification good for?

Normally, medical certification is good for 2 years, though it could be shorter in the case of high blood pressure.

Are there any prescription drugs that are prohibited by the FMCSA?

Only methadone and anti-seizure medications are specifically mentioned as forbidden. Most will be up to the judgment of the prescribing doctor to affirm that the medication will not interfere with your ability to drive safely.

Will I fail a DOT physical if I am taking prescription medication?

No, or not necessarily. Certain prescription medications, namely opiates or amphetamines, would disqualify you from driving a commercial vehicle. Many prescription medications will be acceptable with a doctor's affidavit that you are safe to drive while taking it, but every company has different rules on what meds are acceptable.

Can I be a truck driver if I am missing a limb or have some other physical impairment?

Yes. You will have to apply for a Skills Performance Evaluation Certificate which will require you to prove that you are capable of driving a commercial vehicle safely with your particular physical impairment.

Can I become a truck driver if I have diabetes?

Yes. If you require insulin to control it, you will need to apply for a diabetes exemption. It can be a lengthy process, so start it as early as you can. Otherwise, there are administrative, vision, and medical criteria that you will have to meet to be allowed to drive.

What kinds of medical issues will disqualify a commercial truck driver?

Basically, anything that the FMCSA has deemed likely to interfere with the safe operation of a commercial motor vehicle. Loss of vision, high blood pressure, dependence on prescription narcotics, or physical impairment which does not allow you to operate your vehicle safely are all examples of things that will be obstacles to getting medically certified.

Do all companies make you test for sleep apnea?

Every company has it's own criteria for deciding who is at risk and should be tested/monitored.

Will I be responsible for paying for a sleep study and monitoring equipment?

Mostly, yes. Some companies will put the money up up-front, and payroll deduct it, others will leave it entirely to you to handle. Most companies will require that you foot the bill, at least in part.

What if I have sleep apnea?

You will normally be required to sleep with a CPAP machine that will send data to the company confirming that you are using it. Many studies show that people with sleep apnea who use CPAP's have better sleep and suffer less from daytime drowsiness.

I have high blood pressure. Can I still pass a DOT physical and be medically certified?

Yes, though the certification period may be shorter the higher your blood pressure goes over 140/90. For example: A 1-year certificate will be issued for 140/90 - 150/99 and a 3 month certificate for 160/100 - 179/109. Anything over 180/110 is automatic disqualification until it is brought down.

What kinds of medical exemptions are available for truck drivers?

Drivers who have trouble meeting the criteria for the diabetes, vision, hearing, and/or physical impairment parts of the DOT physical may be eligible to apply for DOT Physical Exemptions.

Do I need a DOT physical before getting my learner's permit?

It depends on the state you live in. Some states require it, some don't.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • 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

    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.

    Hypertension:

    Abnormally high blood pressure.

    Sleep Apnea:

    A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

    In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

    It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

    BMI:

    Body mass index (BMI)

    BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

    • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
    • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

    It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

    CPAP:

    Constant Positive Airway Pressure

    CPAP is a breathing assist device which is worn over the mouth or nose. It provides nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from Sleep Apnea.

    Dm:

    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.

    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.

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