What Is a DOT Physical? A Complete Guide

Are you getting your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)? Commercial motor vehicle operators get held to a higher standard than those operating passenger cars. If you are planning on operating a commercial motor vehicle, you have to have a physical done to stay compliant with federal motor vehicle regulations.

Continue reading to learn everything that you need to know about the DOT physical.

Why Do You Need a DOT Physical?

The qualifications needed to operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle include:

  • Being at least 21 years old
  • Being able to read and speak fluent English
  • Having relevant experience and training
  • Having the license for operating commercial motor vehicles (CDL)
  • Having the physical qualifications via a DOT exam

To comply with federal law, drivers of commercial motor vehicles have to pass a DOT physical that looks at their mental and physical health. Drives have to be physically able to perform all of their duties as bus or truck drivers in a safe manner.

Once the exam is complete, it is good for two years. However, some circumstances may require you to recertify more frequently, such as every three, six, or twelve months.

What Happens During a DOT Physical?

During the DOT exam, the doctor will fill out the Official Medical Examination Report 649-F (6045). They can only sign off on factual information and they have to make sure that all of the information on the form (even what you fill out on your own) is correct.

They will review your entire medical history and ask you about any medications that you may be taking. Once that is complete, they will move on to the physical aspect of the exam. The physical exam will look at vision, hearing, blood pressure, and urinalysis as well as your general health to determine whether you’re qualified to continue driving a commercial motor vehicle.

Certain health problems may prevent you from getting your DOT medical card while others may have exemptions allowing you to continue driving.

Medical History

A thorough medical history will tell your doctor whether you can obtain this certification or not. It looks for problems involving physical issues such as:

  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Brain injuries
  • Alcohol and drug use/abuse
  • Stroke and/or heart attacks
  • Paralysis

It will also look for mental or emotional issues involving psychological disorders and neurological disorders.

Physical Examination

The vision test requires all drivers to have at least 20/40 visual acuity and 70 horizontal meridians. Needing corrective lenses will not prevent you from qualifying, as long as you wear the corrective lenses while driving. The hearing test will check for forced whisper hearing and whether you can hear certain Hz.

With these tests, you may have to wear corrective lenses or hearing aids while driving so that you meet the qualifications.

The blood pressure and pulse test require drivers to have a blood pressure of less than 140/90. Having high blood pressure or pulse will not disqualify you from your certification as long as you get it under control. It just changes how often you need to get recertified.

If your blood pressure is between 141/91 and 159/99 you will have to have your certification renewed every year. If it is between 160/100 and 179/109, you will have to get rechecked every three months. If you can’t get your blood pressure under control, you may become disqualified until you can regulate it.

With a urinalysis, the doctor will be able to check the urine for the presence of blood, sugar, or protein indicating an underlying health condition. It is also used to check for any signs of drug use that may affect your ability to safely operate your vehicle.

The urinalysis can test for the presence of cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, THC, and PCP. If you test positive for any of these things, the doctor will interview you to determine if there is a reason they might be in your system (i.e., medicinal purposes).

General Appearance

An examination of your overall wellbeing will take place to make sure you are physically able to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely. This part of the exam looks at your general appearance for issues with weight, tremors, or drug/alcohol use. It will also look for abnormalities with your:

  • Eyes, ears, mouth, and throat
  • Heart, lungs, and chest
  • Abdomen and viscera
  • Genito-urinary
  • Limbs
  • Spine and musculoskeletal systems

It will help the doctor to see what issues may cause issues with driving. In some cases, these issues are so severe that they can prevent you from passing the DOT physical.

Driver Exemptions

There are exemptions for certain health conditions as long as you can still safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. The exemptions include:

  • Diabetes exemption
  • Hearing exam exemption
  • Vision exam exemption
  • Skill Performance Evaluation Certification Program

While the others are self-explanatory, the Skills Performance Evaluation Certification Program allows drivers with missing or impaired limbs to qualify for the DOT certification. With this exemption, drivers can operate their commercial motor vehicles across state lines as long as they can drive safely with a properly fitted prosthetic device.

What Should You Bring to Your Appointment?

Providing all of this information will ensure that your appointment goes as quickly as possible. We understand that your time is valuable and we don’t have to waste any of it. When you come to the appointment, you should bring:

  • Your current DOT certification (if you have one)
  • A form of identification (to make sure you aren’t pretending to be someone else)
  • A list of your current medications
  • Additional information about preexisting conditions that may affect your eligibility

Any information that you give to the doctor allows them to make the right call when it comes to your health and your ability to operate your truck or bus.

Nicola Chiropractic Does DOT Exams

Getting qualified for commercial motor vehicle operation can be stressful, especially if you have health conditions that can cause you to become eligible for the DOT medical certification. If you need to have a DOT physical done, you can count on Nicola Chiropractic in Nellis to get the job done WITHOUT the wait you might experience anywhere else.

Contact Nicola Chiropractic today to schedule your DOT physical exam.

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