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What is a DOT Physical?

Posted by John Kuder on May 5, 2021 in the category Compliance

What Is a DOT PhysicalBeing a truck driver isn’t easy.

Long hours behind the wheel, stressful traffic conditions, and a high-risk job can lead to serious impacts on driver health and wellness. Of course, the problem is that drivers have lives in their hands. Truck driving and physical and mental stress can be a deadly combination.

That’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires CDL drivers to undergo physicals.

If you want to learn the what, when, and how of DOT physicals, we’re here to help.

Who is Required to Receive a DOT Physical?

DOT physicals and drug tests exist to make sure truck drivers are equipped to handle the demanding job of professional driving.

Many professional drivers, especially folks driving over-the-road or large vehicles like buses, need a medical examiner to confirm they are able to receive or keep their CDL.

If you drive any of the following vehicles, you’ll be required to get a DOT physical:

  • A gross vehicle weight or gross vehicle weight rating of at least 10,001 pounds
  • A vehicle used to transport over 8 passengers, counting the driver, for a fee
  • A vehicle used to transport over 15 passengers including the driver
  • A vehicle used to haul hazardous materials that require placarding

When Do Drivers Need a DOT Physical?

Commercial drivers need to pass a DOT physical before they are able to obtain their license.

After receiving their license, drivers must complete a DOT physical every 24 months. However, some drivers may be required to receive them more often depending on any medical concerns the examiner may have.

Once the test is passed, drivers must carry the original or a photocopy of the exam with them. There also needs to be a copy in driver qualification files.

What is Included in a DOT Physical?


1. Vision

A DOT physical will ensure that drivers have at least 20/40 acuity in each eye with or without correction. In addition, the physical will ensure drivers have at least 70” peripheral in the horizontal meridian, measured in each eye.

2. Hearing

A DOT physical involves testing drivers on their hearing loss. Drivers are required to have no more than 40 dB of average hearing loss in their better ear. This allows a driver to hear a “forced whisper” from at least 5 feet away.

3. Blood pressure/pulse rate

During the physical, the medical examiner will check the driver's blood pressure and pulse for serious medical concerns such as high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats.

4. Urinalysis

A DOT physical involves a urinalysis to check for underlying medical conditions such as diabetes.

5. Physical Examination

The physical examination will cover a dozen different categories:

  1. General appearance
  2. Extremities for limb impairment
  3. Neurological exam for impaired equilibrium, muscle coordination, etc.
  4. Eyes for cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.
  5. Ears for scarring of tympanic membrane, perforated ear drums, etc.
  6. Mouth and throat to look for problems breathing or swallowing
  7. Heart exam to check for murmurs, extra sounds, pacemaker, etc.
  8. Lungs and chest, not including breast examination, for abnormal breathing, impaired respiratory functions, cyanosis, etc.
  9. Vascular for abnormal pulse, carotid, varicose veins
  10. Abdomen and Viscera for enlarged liver, viscera, and/or muscle weakness
  11. Genito-urinary such as hernias
  12. Spine deformities

A note for drivers: it’s important you speak with your medical examiner regarding any prescription drugs you’re taking, especially those that could affect your ability to drive safely.

Drug Testing For Professional Drivers

Along with a physical examination, commercial drivers are required to submit to and pass drug tests.

Companies must test drivers for the following drugs:

  • THC/Marijuana
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates – opium and codeine derivatives

Most companies require drug testing:

  • At the point of hire
  • Post accident/incident
  • On an as-needed basis based on reasonable suspicion
  • Randomly

For information on what happens if a driver fails a drug test, check out this article by TruckingTruth.

DOT Physicals Should Be an Easy Part of Your Job

If you’re ever audited by the DOT, you’ll need to make sure your driver qualification files are in order. That can be easier said than done, though.

Companies who use paper, excel spreadsheets, word docs, etc. often have a hard time keeping track of everything necessary for a driver qualification file. Important documents are lost, time is wasted looking for misplaced information, and the stress gets turned up when the DOT comes knocking.

If you want to save time, money, and resources on driver qualification files, you should consider switching to a compliance tracking system like A-Suite Comply.

A program like A-Suite Comply will help you by:

  • Automating the driver compliance process
  • Storing all driver qualification files in one place
  • Alerting you when a driver will be out of compliance soon
  • Guaranteeing that you will pass the next DOT audit

DOT physicals and other driver qualification standards exist to make people safer. Not only that, they’re a fact of life in the trucking world. Make them easier on yourself by switching to a proven program such as A-Suite Comply.

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