What is a DOT Physical?

For professionals like bus or truck drivers, who are aware of the demanding nature of their work, DOT physicals are required. You'll probably need to undergo a DOT physical to protect both your safety and the safety of others.

A DOT (Department of Transportation) physical is a checkup that’s required for commercial vehicle drivers by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

This exam makes sure you’re able to meet the physical requirements of your job. This includes being able to tolerate the health risks posed by sitting for long periods of time.

If you have been told that you need a DOT physical, here’s what you need to know.

What is the physical used for?

DOT physicals are required in order to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

They’re used to determine your overall physical health and ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle. These determinations ensure that you’re medically qualified to handle the intense schedule, physical demands, and emotional stress of operating commercial vehicles, under all types of conditions.

DOT Physicals are required for drivers who:

  • Transport hazardous materials that require their vehicles to display a hazmat placard
  • Are paid to operate motor vehicles that carry more than eight people
  • Operate motor vehicles that carry more than 15 people
  • Operate motor vehicles that have a gross combination weight rating of over 10,000 pounds

Once you pass a DOT physical, you’ll receive a medical certificate that allows you to drive a commercial vehicle for 2 years, provided you have no underlying physical or mental condition that requires testing more often.

Some medical conditions require that you have an annual DOT physical. These include:

If you have a medical condition such as very high blood pressure, you may be required to have physicals every 3 months while you undergo medical treatment to correct or manage the issue.

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What does a DOT Physical consist of?

The medical examiner giving you a DOT physical will first have you fill out a medical health history form that asks questions about your health history.

Detailed Health History Form

You’ll be asked to provide detailed information about your health, including:

  • Medications you take
  • Surgeries you’ve had
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and other substances
  • Health symptoms or medical conditions you currently have

You also have the option of filling out this form ahead of time and bringing it with you.

Physical Examination

At your DOT physical, you’ll be given a complete physical examination, which tests your:

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Blood pressure
  • Other health indicators
Urinalysis and Other Testing

You’ll also have a urinalysis, which provides information about blood sugar levels and other health indicators. The urinalysis is also used for drug testing purposes.

You may also have your blood drawn and undergo other in-office tests, such as an electrocardiogram.

Each test you take is done to determine if you’re healthy enough to drive a commercial vehicle safely.