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What Does a DOT Physical Exam Consist of?

The US Department of Transportation has strict guidelines that commercial drivers must adhere to, to maintain a smooth flow of operations on the road. One of those requirements states that commercial drivers should be in good health condition because otherwise, they would be putting their safety and that of others at stake. In line with this guideline, they are required to undergo a physical exam every two years and issued with a certificate of the same, before they are licensed to operate. This article looks at what a DOT physical entails.

What is a DOT Physical Exam?

This is a physical exam to determine your health condition before you are cleared to operate commercial vehicles in the department of health. This guideline is laid out by the FMCSA, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This is a requirement for both commercial drivers and those considered safety-sensitive; with a view of ensuring that drivers do not pose a risk to their lives as well as that of the public. A DOT designated physician conducts the exam and issues you with a certificate of good health if you pass the exam. If they fail, their license of operation is revoked. Commercial drivers are supposed to carry this certificate with them all the time.

Who Needs a DOT Exam?

Any driver who operates commercial motor vehicles (CMV),  is a candidate for a DOT exam. A driver who operates a vehicle that carries more than 8 people, a driver paid to carry more than 15 people, a driver operating a motor vehicle with gross combination weight of over 10, 000 pounds and a driver who operates a motor vehicle carrying hazardous materials is eligible for a DOT physical exam.   This is because drivers who operate commercial vehicles such as trucks undergo a lot of physical and mental stress due to the long hours of driving.

 The Provider

A provider (Physician, Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, or Chiropractor) who is designated and licensed by  the FMCSA conducts the DOT exam. Included in the exam is a urinalysis, vision exam, hearing exam, blood pressure measurement, as well as the physical exam of the patient.  Some other health issues like chronic back pains, arthritis, spinal cord injuries, fainting, blurred eyes, dizziness, depression and anxiety disorders are checked during the DOT exam. The provider then notes down all the issues found in your health exam and decides if you are fit for commercial motor vehicle operations. The test usually takes approximately 45 minutes, during which you are supposed to disclose to the physician all underlying issues with your health. It is important to note that any dishonesty can cost you your license since it can be revoked.

The DOT Certificate

The DOT certificate of good physical and mental health can be validated for up to 24 months. However, if you have high blood pressure, the validity of the certificate can be reduced to 1 year or less depending on your health history.  If the exam finds serious physical and mental health issues with you, the provider may determine that you are unfit to operate a commercial motor vehicle and notes the same information in the certificate.

If you happen to fail the DOT exam, do not panic since this is not permanent. You will be barred from CMV operation just for a short period until you get back to good shape. After all, FMCSA has several exemptions for drivers with certain disabilities like impaired vision and hearing and diabetes.

It is in the best interest to be as honest as possible with your physician because failure to do so can cost you the license for good. However, if you are disqualified for health-related reasons, there is a good chance the license will be reinstated, either after your health has improved, or under the drivers’ exemptions. Furthermore, the exam is meant to ensure your safety and that of other road users, so provide the utmost honest information in the exam form.

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