Who Needs a DOT Physical?
A Department of Transportation (DOT) physical is required to ensure that professional drivers are in good health and that they can safely operate commercial vehicles. This protects your safety as well as those who share the road with you.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a DOT physical is required when a driver is operating a commercial vehicle across state lines 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.
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).
4. Hearing Testing
Hearing testing is another requirement that is needed to pass a DOT physical. This is often tested through a whisper test, a test in which the examiner will record the distance from the driver at which a forced whispered voice can be heard. Hearing can also be evaluated through an audiometry test. An audiometry test is a way to measure the ability to hear sounds at different frequencies to determine if the driver has experienced hearing loss.
5. Physical Examination
A physical examination is also required and the examiner will first evaluate general physical appearance for things such as obesity and other medical conditions, and then examine the various body systems, including skin, lungs, the neurological system, and more.
6. Drug Screen
Although it is not part of the DOT physical exam, the DOT also requires a drug screen which can usually be completed at the same time as the physical examination.
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