What Is a DOT Physical? Test Components & Preparation
DOT physicals are required for anyone who’s going to be operating a commercial vehicle, such as a tractor-trailer. This can be something like driving a large truck or bus, working as a mechanic on one of these vehicles, or even just loading and unloading them for shipment purposes. The reason for this is that a DOT physical ensures that you’re healthy enough to safely operate such a vehicle without putting yourself—or others—in danger.
What Is a DOT Physical?
A Department of Transportation (DOT) physical is a medical exam that you need to get in order to drive commercial vehicles across state lines. It’s required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is part of the Department of Transportation.
DOT physicals are required by the FMSCA for all truck drivers, unless they fall into one of these three categories:
- Drivers who only operate within their home state, but cross state lines occasionally
- Drivers who only operate within their home state and have no plans to cross state lines at any time during their employment as long as they’re employed with the same company
- Drivers who only operate within their home state and have been hired on an independent contract basis
If you’re not in one of these three categories, then you need to have a DOT physical. It’s also required if you’re applying for an endorsement on your commercial driver’s license (CDL) that allows you to drive a larger vehicle or more weight than what is allowed by your current CDL.
What’s a DOT physical used for?
The primary purpose of a DOT physical is to determine your medical fitness to drive commercially. You must pass this type of physical before you can obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or temporary commercial learner permit (CLP).
If you want to drive any type of vehicle that requires a CDL, such as tractor-trailers, you will need to take and pass an additional driving skills test at your local DMV office. Your medical examiner will be able to tell you if there are any additional requirements for obtaining your CDL beyond passing this initial physical exam.
To pass this type of physical, you must be able to perform a number of tests that measure your strength and endurance. These include checking your blood pressure and heart rate as well as listening to your lungs with a stethoscope.
You will also be asked to undergo a number of vision tests, both with and without glasses or contact lenses. Your medical examiner will check for any signs of fatigue as well as any injuries that may affect your ability to drive safely.
What does a DOT physical consist of?
At the DOT physical, you’ll be asked to complete a medical history form that includes information about your general health and any previous illnesses or injuries. The medical examiner will also ask you to describe any medications you’re taking and any allergies you might have.
The exam will include:
- A general assessment of your overall health and appearance, including asking questions about your body system functions, mobility, breathing and heart rate. The examiner may take measurements of your height and weight as well.
- Tests for visual acuity (eye exam), color vision, peripheral vision and eye protection requirements for specific occupations.
- Tests to assess your hearing ability.
- Tests for strength and muscle tone.
How to prepare for a DOT physical
By knowing what to expect, you can better prepare for your DOT physical exam. The medical examiner will likely review your medical history, ask about any medications or supplements you take on a regular basis, and perform a basic physical examination (including checking your eyesight).
To help ensure that you pass this exam, here are some tips:
- Be honest with the examiner. If they ask if anything is wrong with your health or if there have been changes in your health recently, it’s best not to lie or conceal pertinent information. Remember that honesty is always the best policy!
- Bring copies of all relevant test results and records from previous exams in case they need quick access to them during the exam itself. You may also find it helpful to bring along copies of self-report questionnaires related to drug use and alcohol consumption (if applicable), mental health conditions (if applicable), driving history reports from prior employers/schools/organizations/etc., etcetera…
Be prepared to answer questions about your medical history and current health status. The examiner may ask if you have had any surgeries or serious injuries in the past, as well as whether there has been any change in your vision recently (or ever). They may also ask about any medications you take on a regular basis—including vitamins/supplements—and whether there have been any changes in them recently. Finally, they will likely want to know if there are any allergies or chronic conditions that affect
Questions to Ask at Your Appointment
It’s important to ask questions at your appointment, especially if this is the first time you’ve had a DOT physical. The more information you have about the process, the better. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Ask what qualifications and experience the doctor has. You want to make sure they are qualified to conduct these exams.
- Ask what credentials the doctor holds, such as their license and certification from an accredited institution or organization.
- Ask how long they have been practicing DOT physicals and how many they have done in total. This can give you a sense of how experienced they are with this type of exam and help put your mind at ease that they know what they’re doing!
- Ask about their approach during the examination and treatment plan (if applicable).
You should now have a pretty good idea of what to expect at your DOT physical. It’s not something many people enjoy going through, but it’s important that we keep our roads safe by doing so. Just remember to relax and take it all in stride—there are no wrong answers here.
Review What Is a DOT Physical? Test Components & Preparation.