DOT Physical Exam

What is a DOT Physical?

The DOT Physical Exam evaluates an aspiring CMV driver’s health status by assessing their medical history and identifying any existing health conditions that may compromise a driver’s ability to operate a large vehicle safely. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recognize that operating CMVs involves a great deal of physical and mental aptitude, thus, mandate drivers to be physically and mentally cleared before operating CMVs. The exam is intended to ensure the public health and safety of CMV and other drivers on the road, and minimize many risks associated with driving CMVs.

The DOT Physical Exam is a crucial and mandatory step in the licensure process of all Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Driver’s. The DOT and FMCSA require all drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to maintain a current Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and valid DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), Form MCSA-5876The physical exam must be performed by a licensed medical examiner, who at the time of your visit, will complete a Medical Examination Report (MER), Form MCSA-5875, and evaluate your health. After successfully passing the exam, driver’s are provided with the Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), Form MCSA-5876.

It is important to ensure that the MEC is current and up-to-date at all times. A DOT physical exam and MEC certificate is typically considered valid for up to 24 months. However, there may be certain conditions that require a medical examiner to issue a MEC certificate that is valid for less than the full 2 years, such as seizure or sleep disorders, in order to monitor the driver and their capacity to safely operate a CMV.

Do I Need a DOT Physical?

If you operate any of the following, then you will need to pass a DOT physical and maintain a current Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), Form MCSA-5876:

  • Vehicle that transports hazardous materials
  • CMV designed to carry more than 15 people
  • Are compensated to operate a CMV that can carry more than 8 people
  • Travel along the interstate with a CMV that has a gross weight rating or gross combination weight of over 10,000 lbs

What to Expect at a DOT Physical

The initial medical examination includes taking your medical history, assessing your height and weight, and examining your vital signs. The examiner will measure your blood pressure, vision, and hearing to establish a general assessment of your physical well-being. Further, a thorough inspection will be conducted of your physical health, including your skin condition and reflexes, and an examination for any hernias. 

During the examination, the medical examiner will collect a urine sample to analyze your blood sugar levels in addition to other health markers. Subsequently, the exam concludes, and the medical certificate is issued to you in most cases. However, there may be instances where further tests are necessary due to the examination findings or the test requirements before a medical certificate can be granted.

Disqualifying Medical Conditions

Heart Conditions
Heart attacks, angina, coronary insufficiency, and thrombosis. Taking nitroglycerine for stable angina is not immediately disqualifying. Consult a cardiologist and obtain clearance before engaging in certain activities to reduce the risk of negative outcomes.​
Neurological Conditions
Patient's with a history of epilepsy or seizure disorder are prohibited from operating a CMV, per FMCSA guidelines. However, the FMCSA recognizes that some drivers may take measures to manage their condition effectively. Therefore, applicants who can demonstrate efficient seizure control may qualify to submit an application for exemption from regulatory restrictions, subject to thorough evaluation and review by the administration.
Inner Ear & Balance Disorders
Inner ear disorders, like Meniere's disease, can cause severe symptoms of vertigo, nausea and hearing loss, which are not only dangerous for CMV drivers, but also others on the road. Further, the lifestyle factors associated with trucking are also major triggers that exacerbate these conditions. For example, smoking, fatigue, burnout, and high-salt diets all trigger vertigo and other symptoms in Meniere’s patients. In some cases, individuals with balance disorders may seek re-certification after demonstrating symptom-free status for an extended duration.
Vision & Hearing Loss
Drivers must meet certain medical guidelines to be certified, including a minimum 20/40 vision in both eyes, regardless of corrective lenses. However, drivers may qualify for a vision exemption if they meet peripheral vision and traffic light recognition standards. Hearing abilities are also evaluated standardized tests which have a significant impact on qualifying. No accommodations are available for hearing loss that may disqualify a driver.
Cannabis Use
Marijuana use is strictly prohibited under the DOT guidelines, even with a prescription or a recommendation from a licensed medical practitioner. This applies to all forms of cannabis, including CBD oil, hemp and other cannabis-derived products. As defined by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Schedule I substances such as marijuana, heroin, LSD, mescaline, MDMA, psilocybin mushroom, methaqualone, cathinone/khat, and MDPV are restricted as well.
Diabetes & High Blood Pressure
Diabetes & high blood pressure don't always disqualify CMV drivers, but are closely monitored by the medical examiner. Drivers with controlled diabetes need to follow up every 45 days, bring electronic glucose records for three months, and complete an Insulin-Treated Diabetes Mellitus Assessment Form MCSA-5870. For high blood pressure, medical providers are provided guidelines, but may grant certification at their discretion.
Other Conditions
Respiratory conditions, proteinuria, psychiatric conditions, paralysis, missing or deformed limbs, and alcoholism may also preclude truckers from being medically cleared to operate a CMV by a medical examiner.