DOT Physical: What Truck Drivers Need to Know

Doctor checking older man for physical

There are a handful of different steps you need to take in order to get your CDL and become a pro. One of them is to pass the DOT Physical Exam: a medical examination that all truck drivers need to pass in order to get their CDL. 

“A Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination must be conducted by a licensed medical examiner listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry.” [1]

Check out these tips to prepare for the DOT Physical Exam!

What to Bring to a DOT Physical Exam

Before you show up to the doctor’s office, you’re going to need to bring a few things with you to make sure the doctor has everything they need:

  • A valid driver’s license (or an alternate form of photo ID)
  • A list of any medications you currently take and the contact information for the doctor who prescribed them
  • Hearing aids, eyeglasses, or contacts that you use
  • Drivers with diabetes need to bring their most recent “Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) results and blood sugar logs” [3]
  • An FMCSA waiver if you are exempt from the DOT Physical Exam

If you have any medical conditions that could come up during the exam (such as heart conditions or sleep apnea), ask your doctor ahead of time for a medical release letter outlining the condition(s) and granting permission to drive a commercial vehicle. Be sure to consult your doctor before you take the physical exam for any other health information that may be useful to the medical examiner.

What to Expect

You’ll need to fill out a basic questionnaire when you arrive. Your medical examiner may have these forms available online for you to fill out before you arrive. The examination itself will cover these areas [3]:

  • General Appearance
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Mouth/Throat Exam
  • Heart
  • Lungs & Chest
  • Abdominal Issues
  • Vascular Issues
  • Genito-Urinary Issues
  • Extremities
  • Possible Spinal Injuries
  • Neurological Issues

This list is not comprehensive and may include other aspects of your health.

How to Prepare

The short answer, stay healthy! Make sure you are on a balanced diet, commit to physical exercise (a little goes a long way), stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep. Ask your doctor for a more tailored regimen to make sure your physical needs are met.  

Possible Outcomes

There are three possible outcomes of your physical:

  1. Pass – this means you’re in good health and can now get your CDL. Just make sure to renew your medical card after 24 months.
  2. Fail – unfortunately, this means you do not fit the minimum health requirements needed to get your CDL.
  3. Pass (with a short-term medical card) – this means you didn’t have enough health issues to disqualify you completely, but you will need to renew your medical card sooner than 24 months.

How Long Will it Take?

If you’re a healthy applicant, the exam should only take about an hour (maybe less). The exam lasts about as long as a regular physical so plan accordingly.

If you require additional tests or need to come back for another exam, these visits could take longer. Ask the medical examiner when you’re scheduling to see if they have an average time the exams take.

How Much Will it Cost?

Typical DOT Physical Exams will cost about $85 – $150 but can vary from practice to practice. DOT Physical Exams are typically not covered by insurance. Be sure to shop around at different medical offices to make sure you are getting the best price.

Also be sure to check with your carrier; many times companies will pay for the cost of the physical for their drivers.

State-Specific Requirements

This article touched on the requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA.) Be sure to check with your state’s DOT to see if they require a different physical exam.

Wrapping Up

We hope you found this information useful! The DOT Physical Exam requirements may change from time to time so be sure to check back here before your next physical for the most up-to-date information.





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