This post was last updated on July 22nd, 2016
You have your CDL A license, and you’re ready to hit the open road on a commercial vehicle with a gross weight of over 10,000 pounds. But before you head out, you must pass your DOT physical.
Any driver that takes control of a vehicle with a gross weight rating of over 10,000 pounds will be required to take a DOT physical if they plan to drive the vehicle for:
DOT Physical Requirements
The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires a physical for all truck drivers as stated above. The physical must be carried out by a medical examiner that is part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA).
The examiner must be listed on the FMSCA National Registry.
A medical examiner also includes:
- Physician assistants
- Doctors of medicine
- Advanced practice nurses
- Doctors of osteopathy
- Doctors of chiropractic
If you’re not sure where to get a DOT physical or you’re looking for a medical examiner for your DOT physical, it’s recommended that you go directly to the FMSCA Registry.
All physicals are valid for a period of 24 months.
It’s the responsibility of all drivers to have a medical examiner’s certificate that is up to date and valid.
Note: A medical examiner, can at his or her discretion, administer a certificate that is less than 24 months. It’s the responsibility of all drivers to know how long their certificate will last.
The medical examiner will provide one copy of the results as well as a Medical Examiner’s Certificate to the person examined if he or she is deemed physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
What Does a Dot Physical Consist of?
There are numerous sections to the DOT physical exam that will need to be passed:
Drivers will need to pass a vision test. Corrective lenses or glasses are allowed, and drivers will need to take a standard test where eyes are checked separately and individually using the Snellen eye chart.
A driver’s hearing will be tested thoroughly, with the person examined having to display their hearing abilities. Distance and frequencies will be tested to ensure that the trucker will be able to hear sirens, horns and so on while behind the wheel of a big rig.
A urinalysis will be conducted to uncover hidden health problems, such as blood sugar and protein issues, which are often examined via a person’s urine.
It’s important to note that the exam will not include a drug and alcohol test. A drug and alcohol test will be administered as part of the pre-employment process from the trucking company that hires you.
All drivers must be able to pass the drug and alcohol test before being employed.
Hypertension or abnormal blood pressure and pulse rates will be tested for during the physical. If you’re found to have these issues, the medical examiner will likely administer a shorter medical certificate to retest more often.
The exam will also be a general wellness exam that will check your:
- Signs of alcohol abuse
- Signs of drug abuse
- Mouth and throat issues
- Neurological issues
A medical examiner will be checking to ensure that a person will not be at a higher risk for causing an accident when they’re on the road. Breathing issues or lung issues, for example, may put you at a higher risk of getting into an accident on the road.
In most cases, minor issues will be overlooked, or a shorter medical certificate will be issued to keep a close eye on potential problems that may arise in the future.
There are cases where a driver who cannot meet the physical requirements of the exam will be allowed to be exempt from certain conditions.
Exemptions are offered for:
- Physical impairments
- Hearing impairment
- Vision impairment
In these circumstances, a medical card may be impossible to obtain without the exemption. Exemptions are granted for all interstate drivers and will not be able to be applied to intrastate driving.
All exemptions are provided on a case-by-case basis wherein the driver can still operate their vehicle safely. If the reason for exemption is such that it would reduce the driver’s ability to drive safely, they may not be granted an exemption.
DOT Physical Cost
Costs for your physical will vary, and your insurance company may cover the cost, too. A typical exam will cost between $50 and $300 in most cases, but again, this will vary from one examiner to the next.
It’s recommended that you call the examiner personally and inquire about the cost of the exam.
What Happens If You Don’t Pass the Physical?
All CDL holders are required to pass their physical exam. Once an exam has been completed, the tests will be automatically transmitted to the Department of Transportation. Medical certification must be updated with the State Driver Licensing Agency prior to expiration.
If allowed to expire, the agency will notify you that you’re no longer allowed to operate a commercial vehicle.
The only case in which a failed exam can be overridden is if you’re eligible for any medical exemptions or if you’re able to successfully pass a retest.
Otherwise, the DOT will be notified that you’re no longer able to operate a vehicle safely. Failed exams can be contested, but “doctor shopping” to find an examiner that will overlook a medical condition is not recommended.