Worried about the DOT physical exam? Not sure if you are going to pass it? There is a lot of confusion regarding the DOT medical exam and who is required to pass it. In this article I will tell you everything you need to know about the DOT medical exam and what it entails.
One of the first steps to getting your CDL is to pass a DOT physical exam and get your commercial learner’s permit (CLP). Without a CLP you will not be allowed to drive a commercial vehicle as part of your training. In all states you are required to bring your proof of passing the DOT physical exam with you when you apply for your CLP .
The physical exam you need for a CDL cannot be performed by just any doctor, you have to go to a Certified Medical Examiner listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration National Registry. In this article I will explain the following:
1. How to determine if you need to have a DOT physical exam
2. How to find DOT certified medical examiners using the FMCSA National Registry
3. What the DOT physical exam tests for
4. What to do with your exam results
CDL Self Certification
The first thing you have to do is determine if you need to take a DOT physical exam. A lot of people think everyone that has a CDL has to pass a DOT physical exam. This is not accurate, only certain CDL drivers are required to pass a DOT physical examination.
All potential CDL drivers are now required to declare to their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) that they are expecting to operate in one of four categories with their CDL. This process is called self-certification, and you will have to self-certify when you apply for your CLP.
The load you will be transporting, where you will be driving, and vehicle will determine which category you should declare for yourself. It’s important that you know which commercial vehicle you will be driving once you get your CDL so you can make the correct self-certification. Below is a quick way to determine which of the four self-certification categories you fit into.
Interstate or Intrastate
Are you going to use your CDL to drive interstate commerce or intrastate commerce? You will have to determine this first. Here is what you need to know about each one:
-You will be driving from one state to another state or country
-You will be driving between two places within a state but your route takes you through another state or country
-You will be driving between two places within a state but your load/cargo came from or will be delivered to another state or country
-You will be driving a commercial vehicle within one state and you don’t meet any of the interstate descriptions
Note: If you are going to drive in both intrastate and interstate commerce you have to choose interstate commerce.
These are the 4 categories that you will have to self-certify for after you have determined if you are going to be interstate or intrastate: Source: FMSCA
1. Excepted Interstate Commerce
You will choose excepted interstate commerce if you will be operating a commercial motor vehicle for the following activities. If you choose one of the following you do not need to complete a DOT medical exam:
-To transport school children and/or school staff between home and school
-As Federal, State or local government employees
-To transport human corpses or sick or injured persons
-Fire truck or rescue vehicle drivers during emergencies and other related activities
-Primarily in the transportation of propane winter heating fuel when responding to an emergency condition requiring immediate response such as damage to a propane gas system after a storm or flooding
-In response to a pipeline emergency condition requiring immediate response such as a pipeline leak or rupture
-In custom harvesting on a farm or to transport farm machinery and supplies used in the custom harvesting operation to and from a farm or to transport custom harvested crops to storage or market
-Beekeeper in the seasonal transportation of bees
-Controlled and operated by a farmer, but is not a combination vehicle (power unit and towed unit), and is used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery or farm supplies (no placard-able hazardous materials) to and from a farm and within 150 air-miles of the farm
-As a private motor carrier of passengers for non-business purposes
-To transport migrant workers
2. Non-Excepted Interstate Commerce
If you are going to drive for any other reason not listed above you are required to choose non-expected interstate commerce and are required to pass a DOT physical exam. If you are transporting loads from one state to another and it is for a load not listed above you are going to pick this category. This is the most common category for truckers that are driving in and out of the state that they have their CDL from.
Note: If you are going to drive both excepted interstate commerce and interstate non-excepted commerce you have to chose interstate non-excepted commerce and are required to pass the DOT physical exam.
3. Expected Intrastate Commerce
You operate in excepted intrastate commerce when you drive a commercial vehicle only in intrastate commerce activities which your state of licensing has determined do not require you to meet the state medical certification requirements. States often have different requirements for intrastate excepted commerce driving and you should check with your state to see if you need a DOT medical exam. Remember, intrastate means you are going to drive a commercial vehicle within one state.
4. Non-Excepted Intrastate Commerce
You operate in non-excepted intrastate commerce when you drive a commercial vehicle only in intrastate commerce and are required to meet your state of licensing medical certification requirements. I suggest you check with your specific state for specific information regarding intrastate commerce. Remember, intrastate means you will not be leaving the state that you have your CDL in.
Note: If you operate in both excepted intrastate commerce and non-excepted intrastate commerce, you must choose non-excepted intrastate commerce.
History Of The DOT Medical Exam
There is often confusion when it comes to the DOT physical exam and CDL’s. If you are testing to get your Class A, Class B, or Class C CDL please take the time to determine if you need to take a DOT medical exam using the self certification information above. Once you determine which category you are you will know whether or not a physical test is necessary.
Getting your CLP (commercial learner’s permit) is one of the first steps to getting a CDL and showing evidence that you were examined and passed a physical (if necessary) is a part of the CLP. The FMSCA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) have made it mandatory that anyone driving a commercial motor vehicle pass a physical examination to ensure the driver and the public are safe.
Lets take a look at the history of the DOT physical exam. Prior to 2014 the medical examine was able to be done by any physician. Applicant drivers were going to their family doctor or local doctors office to get their physical exam. In 2014 the FMSCA added to the medical exam law that the DOT physical exam has to be performed by a medical professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. This means that medical professionals that were conducting DOT physical exams would have to undergo training in order to receive certification to meet DOT physical exam standards.
Doctors For DOT Medical Exam Near You
To find DOT medical exam clinics near you all you have to do is visit the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners here. Once you are on the page all you have to do is put in your city, state, and zip code. After that you will get a list of doctors and a map showing you exactly where each clinic is located near you. It’s very convenient and you have piece of mind knowing that the medical professional you visit for your DOT physical exam is certified and registered on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. Don’t waste your time going to your local doctor, they most likely are not certified to conduct the DOT physical exam.
What Does The Dot Physical Exam Test For?
The DOT Physical Exam is an extensive exam that includes a lot of information sharing and testing. I am going to review each section of the physical exam so that you know exactly what to expect when you have the exam done in order to get your medical exam certificate.
Your name, address, driver’s license number, date of birth, and gender will be asked. You get the idea, basic background information about you.
There will also be 32 health history questions where you will have to bubble in “yes”, “no”, or “not sure”. Here are some of the types of questions you are expected to answer:
Ear or hearing problems?
High blood pressure?
Fainting or passing out?
Anxiety, depression, nervousness, or mental health problems?
Unexplained weight loss?
Neck or back problems?
Have you ever had a broken bone?
Do you currently drink alcohol?
Have you used an illegal substance in the past two years?
This is the part of the physical exam where the medical examiner conducts several tests that will help him/her determine if you are healthy enough to drive a commercial vehicle. This is the actual physical examination. I am going to explain exactly what he/she will be testing you for.
At least 20/40 vision in both eyes is required with or without corrective lenses. At least a 70 degree field of vision in horizontal meridian measured in each eye. Also, if you wear contact lenses or glasses it will be noted by the medical examiner.
2. Blood Pressure
It is important that you keep your blood pressure under control as it can impact your medical exam and ultimately your CDL status. The readings for blood pressure are as follows:
Normal: If you have normal blood pressure you will be certified for a two year period. Normal blood pressure is blood pressure of 90-119 systolic and/or a blood pressure of 60-79 diastolic.
Prehypertension: Prehypertension blood pressure is 120-139 systolic and/or 80-89 diastolic. Prehypertension blood pressure readings will also certify you for a two year period.
Stage 1 Hypertension: If you have hypertension blood pressure you will be medically certified for one year. Stage 1 hypertension blood pressure is blood pressure of 140-159 systolic and/or 90-99 diastolic. If you have stage 1 hypertension blood pressure you will have to test every year or until you get it into the prehypertension or normal range.
Stage 2 Hypertension: If you have stage 2 hypertension you will be given a one time medical certification of three months. Stage 2 hypertension is between 160-179 systolic and 100-109 diastolic. You will be given a three month certificate so that you have time to lower your blood to the prehypertension or normal range.
Stage 3 Hypertension: If you have stage 3 hypertension you are disqualified. Stage 3 hypertension corresponds to greater than 180 systolic and 110 or more diastolic. You will not be allowed to drive a commercial vehicle until you get your blood pressure into the prehypertension or normal range.
You will pass the hearing test if you can hear a forced whisper from 5 ft. away in your better ear with or without the use of a hearing aid/device or your average hearing loss is less than 40 dB in your better ear with or without a hearing aid.
4. Urine Test
The purpose of the urine test is to test for protein, sugar, or blood in your urine which may be an indication for further testing to rule out any underlying medical problems. This is usually a dip stick test where you will have to put a piece of paper in your urine stream as you are urinating. The DOT physical exam does not test for drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, opiates, or amphetamines. More about the drug test next.
Does The DOT Medical Exam Require A Drug Test?
No, the DOT medical exam does not require a drug test. It is very likely though that the trucking company hiring you will at some point require you to take a drug test. They often request you take the drug test at the same time as the DOT physical exam. Again, at some point before you are hired by a trucking company you are highly likely to have to have a drug test for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP).
If the company requests you to take a drug you cannot refuse. According to the FMCSA your refusal to submit to a drug or alcohol test is equivalent to testing positive to a drug or alcohol test. If you want to get and keep your CDL it is your responsibility to stay away from any drugs and limit your alcohol consumption, your career depends on it.
How To Lower Blood Pressure For The DOT Exam
High blood pressure is a one of the DOT exam parts that drivers worry about the most. Maintaining normal or prehypertension blood pressure is crucial if you are currently or will be a commercial vehicle driver soon. There are some ways that you can lower you blood pressure a little bit before the exam. Don’t rely on these to lower your blood pressure 20 points, they can lower it a few points only. A few points though could mean the difference between getting a normal/prehypertension reading and a stage 1 hypertension.
The obvious one is medication. If you take blood pressure medication be sure you bring the medication with you to the physical exam. The doctor will need to know the medication you are taking and the amount.
2. Drink Water
Drinking water lowers the amount of sodium your body retains which is know to raise blood pressure. Drink a lot of water the few days leading up to your exam.
3. Eat Bananas
Bananas are potassium rich foods that have been proven to lower blood pressure. Try to eat one everyday to control your blood pressure.
4. Avoid coffee, Cigarettes, and Alcohol
Avoid them as much as possible. I know it’s hard, I can’t do without my morning coffee and few drinks after work either but you need to pass this physical exam.
For the few days leading up to your exam it is important that you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleeping well is known to lower blood pressure.
What Should You Bring To The Exam?
Make sure you bring all the necessary papers that are asked of you to the exam. Call the office ahead of time and ask them about the documents that you need to bring.
You will at least need the following:
1. Valid driver’s license
2. Make sure you bring your glasses or are wearing contacts
3. If you wear a hearing aid make sure you bring it with you
4. You will need to bring a list of medications you are currently taking any medications
How Long Does The Exam Take?
The physical exam typically takes between 30 and 45 minutes.
DOT Physical Exam Cost
The DOT physical exam typically costs between $85.00 and $125.00. I do encourage you to call several doctors from the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners that are near you and ask for their price before committing to an appointment. If you are like me you probably want to save as much money as you can. Like anything else that you can buy the prices of the physical exam is not the same at every location. Take your time and look around.
Will I Have To Undress For The Exam?
No, you will not have to get naked for the DOT physical exam. If you are asked to get naked for it say no and consult a lawyer or call the police.
DOT Physical Exam Results
Once you have completed the DOT physical exam and the doctor that has examined you concludes that you are healthy enough to drive a commercial motor vehicle he/she will give you the result right away. The doctor will also complete a Medical Examiners Certificate so that you have a copy of it for your records. Don’t lose this certificate, you may be required to show it to an employer or bring it with you to the DMV when you begin taking the written tests for your CDL.
The doctor will also add your medical exam results to the DOT Commercial Driver’s License Information System and is required to keep a copy of the Medical Examiner’s Certificate on file for at lest 3 years. The Medical Examiner’s Certificate is valid for 2 years, it’s your responsibility to make sure you go back in 2 years for another DOT physical exam.
DOT Medical Exam Certificate
Here is what the DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate will look like: Click Here .If you want to turn the cretificate into an actual card to carry with you (you have to) you can print it on cardstock. You are also allowed to reduce the size of the certificate with a printer so that it can fit in a wallet or glove box.
Renewing Your DOT ME Certificate
In order to renew you DOT medical exam card/certificate you will need to pass the exam again. This means you will have to go through the exam process again to make sure you are still allowed to drive a commercial vehicle.