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According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the group who governs DOT physicals as well as the health professionals who are certified to provide these services, a DOT physical is required when a driver is operating a commercial vehicle across state lines (also called “interstate driving”), that:
Has a combined gross vehicle weight or weight rating of 10,001 lbs. or more
Is designed or used to transport 9-15 passengers (including the driver) for compensation
Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) regardless if for compensation
Transports hazardous materials in quantities that require placarding under the hazardous materials regulations
Intrastate drivers, or drivers that stay within one state, may also require a DOT physical depending on the regulations that are specific to their states.
Where are DOT Physicals Administered?
DOT physicals can only be administered by an FMCSA certified medical provider. These are providers who have specific FMCSA training and are registered on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). To find a DOT certified provider near you, you can search the NRCME site.
When Does a DOT Physical Need Renewed?
Depending on the outcome of the physical, a certification can be valid for up to 24 months. However, if the medical provider determines that the driver has existing conditions that need to be monitored, they can certify them for less than 24 months. Common reasons for giving a less than 24 month certification include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.
What Should You Expect During a DOT Physical Examination?
A DOT physical exam has many different components. Here are the six things to expect during a DOT physical.1
1. Medical History
During a DOT physical, the driver will need to provide extensive background on their medical history, including past surgeries, medications taken, and history of health conditions. It is important to be honest when providing health history as there could be repercussions later on if the correct health history is not provided.
2. Vitals Testing and Physical Examination
A large portion of the DOT physical is testing vitals. Testing includes pulse, height, weight, and blood pressure. The FMCSA also requires urinalysis, which looks at the protein, blood, and sugar in a urine sample to rule out underlying medical problems.
3. Vision Testing
In addition to more general testing, the FMSCA requires vision testing to ensure drivers are meeting the standard of at least 20/40 vision acuity in each eye with or without correction (glasses or contacts) and at least 70° field of vision in horizontal meridian measured in each eye (the area of visibility for each eye’s line of sight).