What Truckers Need to Know About DOT Physicals

Whether you’re a seasoned commercial truck driver or considering a career as one, you’ve heard of the Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam. To keep roads safe and minimize health problems, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires all drivers to pass a DOT physical exam before earning a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

The exam must be conducted by a licensed medical examiner listed on the FMCSA National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. As this is a federal certification, a provider in any state may conduct your DOT physical, regardless of your home location. The certificate is valid for up to 24 months. However, the medical examiner may issue a certificate for less than 24 months when a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure, requires monitoring. In fact, 1 in 2 drivers get restricted CDL licenses for one year or less due to a chronic condition like diabetes, hypertension or obesity. The FMCSA has driver exemption programs for some people with impaired vision, hearing or other disabilities. Your healthcare provider can help you determine if you’re eligible for those programs.

How to prepare for your DOT physical

If you’re currently being treated for a chronic health condition, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before your next DOT physical. To help prepare for your DOT physical, you should:

  • Cut back on caffeine, tobacco products, salt, sugar and junk food to help lower your blood pressure.
  • Make sure you’re taking over-the-counter and prescribed medications as directed.
  • Make sure any prescription for glasses or contacts are up to date and bring them with you.
  • If you use a CPAP for sleep apnea, make sure that you have a printed copy of your compliance report (for a minimum of the past 90 days) with you.

It’s important to not worry about your upcoming physical. Stress can affect your health even when you don’t realize it, manifesting as headaches, chest pain, muscle tension and sleep problems. Unchecked stress can contribute to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

What to expect at your DOT physical

During the DOT physical, the medical examiner will review your medical history and perform a series of tests to check your vision, hearing, blood pressure and heart rate. They’ll also conduct a urinalysis and physical exam. DOT physical requirements include:

  • Good vision — 20/40 vision with or without the use of corrective lenses in each eye separately, as well as both together.
  • Good hearing — The ability to hear a “forced whispered voice” in one ear within five feet with or without the use of a hearing aid.
  • Healthy blood pressure — Under 140/90 (a higher BP or history of high blood pressure will result in a certification of less than 2 years).
  • Healthy urinalysis — Tests for a wide range of disorders including kidney disease and diabetes.

What you need to bring to your DOT physical

Bring the following records and items to your appointment:

  • Medical records from your healthcare provider
  • A list of all prescriptions, including dosage, that you currently take
  • Glasses or contacts
  • Hearing aids

It’s important to note that conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or sleep apnea may require additional paperwork.

How to stay healthy beyond your DOT physical

Taking care of yourself is even more important than taking care of your truck if you want to avoid downtime on the road and off. UrgentCareTravel, a growing network of walk-in medical clinics located at Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers along major interstate highways, understands the challenges that professional drivers face trying to find convenient and affordable healthcare while hauling freight. That’s why they’re offering a free Health Check for drivers at all of their clinics.

“With the free Health Check, you are under no obligation to buy anything. You can come in and talk to a Health Coach for 10-15 minutes to help you prepare for your next DOT Physical or answer any health questions you may have. In addition, the free Health Check also includes a $10 discount on your DOT physical. And because we’re at Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers where drivers already fuel, we typically save drivers an average of 4-6 hours of downtime on every clinic visit,” says Mitch Strobin, the Senior Vice President of Relationship Management for UrgentCareTravel. “Of course, we’d love for you to come back for your DOT physical or, depending upon your discussion, enroll and join our Health Network to address your chronic condition. The key is that you’re having a medical discussion with a healthcare provider.”

If you do decide to join the UCT Health Network, as a member your in-clinic medical services, including DOT physicals, have no deductible and no co-pay, injection services are discounted and there are no membership restrictions due to preexisting conditions or age. Your UCT Health Coach will help you create a personalized care plan to manage your chronic illnesses, and as part of the Health Network program, you can speak to your Health Coach between clinic visits.