Your Complete Guide to Getting a DOT Physical

DOT Physicals Are a Pivotal Safety Measure

Every commercial fleet driver needs to pass a routine DOT physical to legally remain on the road. A DOT physical is a medical exam required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to improve road safety.

It is a safety protocol put in place to reduce:

  • Crashes
  • Injuries
  • Fatalities
  • Unfit drivers on the road

Every year, millions of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are forced to comply with FMCSA physical qualification criteria.

The DOT physical exam is mandatory for drivers operating vehicles:

  • Capable of carrying 15+ occupants
  • With a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) surpassing 10,000 pounds
  • Capable of transporting 8 occupants (if the driver is a paid employee)
  • Performing interstate commerce
  • Transporting hazardous materials (HAZMAT)

Our goal today is to help you prepare for and clear this important bureaucratic benchmark. We understand that passing your Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam can feel like a tiresome chore. Hopefully, you can use this overview to streamline the process.

The Ins & Outs of a DOT Physical

The primary objective of a DOT physical is to determine whether a driver is fit to handle the tasks of their job’s requirements. Commercial drivers must endure many stressful, demanding scenarios – long routes, enduring work schedules, harsh environments, and heavy cargo. Aware of these responsibilities and the necessity for drivers of large commercial fleets to be fit for duty, the medical examiner will conduct a series of tests.

These tests will ensure a commercial driver is capable of the following tasks:

  • Controlling a steering wheel
  • Using side mirrors
  • Entering and exiting large vehicles
  • Manipulating dashboard switches
  • Loading and unloading cargo
  • Memorizing controls
  • Coupling and uncoupling trailers
  • Staying alert for extended periods
  • Shifting gears
  • Conducting vehicle inspections

To pass the examiner’s inspection, a driver must be qualified as an acceptable risk. Of course, even a healthy and physically fit driver is subject to the possibility of making a grave error or mistake. The DOT physical is to mitigate the likelihood of such scenarios.

With the end goal of promoting public safety, the examiner’s fundamental responsibility is to spot:

  • Injuries or disorders that may interfere with operating a commercial motor vehicle
  • Diseases, such as epilepsy, putting a CMV driver at imminent health risk of sudden incapacitation
  • Conditions, such as narcolepsy, that make driving long distances too dangerous
  • And much more

The DOT Physical Exam Process

Know that we know the objectives behind a DOT physical, let’s discuss what to expect from the examination itself.

A DOT physical includes:

  • A Vision Test – A commercial driver must demonstrate 70-degrees field of vision in each eye’s horizontal meridian, 20/40 visual acuity (with or without corrective lenses), and the ability to distinguish the traffic signal colors
  • A Hearing Test – Drivers must have at least one ear without hearing loss greater than 40 decibels (dB) at 500 hertz (Hz), 1,000 Hz, and 2,000 Hz.
  • A Urinalysis Test – This urine test checks for healthy protein, blood, and glucose levels (not drugs/illegal substances).
  • A Health Checkup – Drivers must disclose all medicines, diagnoses, treatments, and health conditions. The examiner will follow up on any potential issues.
  • A Blood Pressure/Pulse Rate Test – An examiner might grant a temporary medical certificate if the recorded blood pressure (BP) rate indicates hypertension.
  • A Physical Exam – A medical examiner will check for signs of chronic fatigue and incapacitating injuries. Commercial drivers must be fit to handle vigorous activity and display balance, flexibility, sufficient grip/upper/lower body strength, and mobility.

The Logistics of a DOT Physical Exam

DOT physicals must be completed within the timeframe specified on a commercial driver’s previous certification. The maximum certification is two years, but many examiners might designate a shorter period if frequent monitoring is deemed necessary. Drivers must keep track of their medical certification deadlines and carry a Medical Examiner’s Certificate/Card any time they operate a CMV. This medical card contains documentation on your medical history, vital signs, and physical test results.

Drivers can apply for exemptions if any DOT medical mandate regarding physical impairment, vision, hearing, or diabetes is failed or unmet. Some commercial drivers may need to change states where standards are less strict. Only certified medical examiners, including ARCpoint Labs of Houston Northwest, can perform DOT physicals. We’re on the FMCSA’s National Registry, and ready to conduct your DOT physical quickly, efficiently, and affordably!

Need a DOT physical? Call (281) 843-4054 anytime to learn more about our DOT physical exam options!