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Everything You Need to Know About DOT Physicals

Driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is physically and mentally strenuous, and the long hours, stressful treks, and heavy loads can take quite a toll on even the healthiest among us. Because of the demanding nature of the job, the tenacious individuals in these positions must undergo regular physicals to ensure they meet specific health guidelines as determined by a licensed medical examiner.

In an effort to provide some clarity and uniformity for companies that employ safety-sensitive employees that fall under DOT regulation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has established the 49 CFR 391.41-49—a DOT-wide set of regulations to determine qualification to operate a CMV and promote driver health. Here’s what that means for all of you that employ CDL holders, airline pilots, mariners, etc.

Understanding the 49 CFR 391.41-49

What Is Needed For The 49 CFR 391.41-49?

Because safety sensitive employees are responsible for their own safety and the safety of the public, ensuring your drivers are fit to be behind the wheel is critical. In order to do this, the medical examiner will first need to verify that your commercial drivers aren’t impaired in any way.

Instruct your employees to bring these items—as they apply—to ensure their appointment runs as smoothly as possible:

  • A complete list of current prescriptions, including notes on the dosage and regimen. (It also doesn’t hurt to have them list the prescribing doctor’s name and practice address.)
  • Glasses or contacts if their license indicates a vision restriction, as well as any documentation from an ophthalmologist or optometrist
  • Hearing aids
  • Blood sugar logs and their most recent lab results from their HgAIC, if diabetic
  • A letter from a cardiologist outlining medical history a for those with heart-related issues

What Tests Are Administered?

In order to be medically certified and physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle, DOT regulated safety-sensitive employees must have:

  • Vision: 20/40 acuity as determined by the Snellen chart; the ability to distinguish among traffic control signals and services showing red, green, and amber colors; monocular vision; at least 70-degree peripheral vision
  • Hearing: the ability to perceive a whisper voice at least 5 feet away, or average hearing loss of 40 dB or less in their better ear
  • Blood Pressure and Pulse Rate: a regular pulse rate; 90-119 systolic and/or 60-79 diastolic blood pressure

Employees are also subject to a urinalysis, asprotein, blood, or sugar in the urine may signal that further testing is needed.

What All Does The Physical Examination Cover?

It is critical that medical examiners dive deep into each driver’s health history and check all body systems for potential abnormalities in order to evaluate whether any health issues are or could be affecting the driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.

The physical examination will cover a full-spectrum of health matters, including:

  • Head or brain injuries or illnesses
  • Seizures or epilepsy
  • Any heart problems or procedures, including heart disease, heart attack, bypass, pacemaker, stent, implantable device etc.
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Chronic lung problems, including lung disease, shortness of breath, cough, etc.
  • Kids problems, including kidney stones, pain/problems with urination, etc.
  • Stomach, liver, or digestive problems
  • Diabetes, blood sugar problem, or insulin use
  • Mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, nervousness, etc.
  • Fainting or passing out
  • Dizziness, headaches, numbness, tingling, or memory loss
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Stroke, mini-stroke (TIA), paralysis, or weakness
  • Missing or limited use of arm, hand, finger, leg, foot, toe, etc.
  • Neck or back problems
  • Cancer
  • Chronic infection or other chronic diseases
  • Sleep disorders, including pauses in breathing while asleep, daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, etc.

The examiner will also ask if the driver has or ever had:

  • A sleep test
  • Spent the night in the hospital
  • Broken a bone
  • Use tobacco
  • Frequent alcohol consumption
  • An illegal substance within the last two years
  • Failed a drug test or been dependent on an illegal substance

Usually, these physicals are valid for 24 months, though the standard 2 year timeline may be shorter if the medical examiner finds a condition—such as high blood pressure—which needs to be monitored more frequently.

Are You In Compliance?

The official 49 CFR 391.41-49 is long, tedious, and full of legal jargon. Do you really know if you’re in compliance?

You need a partner who can help you manage your DOT program so that you and your employees are always in compliance. Contact ARCpoint Labs today to discuss how we can assist with your company’s DOT physicals, random drug testing management and consortiums, driver qualification records, SAP services, and more.