Everything You Need to Know for Your Dot Physical Exam

DOT Physical Exam/CDL

As simple as driving a truck might seem, the job itself can be extremely physically demanding. Because of this, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires you to pass a physical before you can use your CDL to drive a truck. I mean, it makes sense — you wouldn’t want an at-risk driver behind the wheel of a five-ton (minimum) vehicle, or at least we wouldn’t at Whiteline Express.

Still, the concept of a physical can be worrisome, even for the healthiest drivers. After all, CDL drivers need to have an up-to-date physical all the time. Because of this, you’ve probably found yourself wandering to the internet to answer the age-old question — what exactly does a DOT Physical Exam look for? Here’s everything you need to know about the test.

How often do you need to get an updated DOT physical?

Drivers will need to get their physical renewed AT LEAST every two years. The caveat here is that only completely healthy drivers will receive a two-year physical. Certain conditions could, and often do, result in more frequent physical testing.

When should you be worried?

If you’re reading this article, there’s probably a certain part of you, however small it may be, that is worried about failing your DOT physical. Don’t worry, we’ll give you every reason why you wouldn’t pass a physical right here. Here are the most common things that prevent a passing test, according to WebMD.

  • Cardiovascular Disease without medication
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorders
  • Meniere’s Disease, an inner ear disorder that causes dizziness
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Vision loss that can’t be corrected
  • Hearing loss that can’t be corrected
  • Use of marijuana, even if prescribed
  • Use of illegal substances
  • Use of oxygen therapy
  • Some respiratory conditions
  • Protein in the urine, which may indicate kidney disease

This isn’t everything that will be checked — here are a few other things that will be checked but won’t necessarily disqualify you from driving.

  • Past surgeries
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medicines you’re taking
  • Prior health issues
  • Tobacco, alcohol, or illegal substance use
  • Past drug test results
  • Past drug dependencies

Here are some miscellaneous things that will be checked.

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Blood pressure
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • General appearance
  • Skin
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Mouth and throat
  • Heart
  • Lungs and chest
  • Abdomen
  • Back and spine
  • Genital and urinary system, including checking for hernias
  • Extremities and joints
  • Nervous system, including your reflexes
  • Gait, which is how you walk
  • Circulatory system, which is your arteries, veins, and lymphatic system

For specific cases, make sure you bring each of the following if it applies to you.

  • Glasses/contacts for those with vision problems
  • Hearing aid for those with hearing problems
  • Hemoglobin A1C results and blood sugar logs for those with diabetes
  • Letter from cardiologist stating issues and limitations and a note stating they are safe to drive for those with heart-related issues

Want specifics?

If you’re still worried that you may not be able to pass your physical, check the hyperlinks in the text above or reach out to Whiteline Express on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Here’s what happens if you fail.

This may all seem scary. Don’t worry, even if you fail, you’re not automatically disqualified — if your condition improves or you receive treatment, you can take the exam again. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) also makes exceptions for certain impairments.

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