When most truck drivers think about having a good time, getting a physical isn’t on the list. However, they are a necessary requirement for receiving or maintaining a Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL).
Drivers must pass a basic physical to determine if they are fit to operate a commercial vehicle of size safely on the roads. After all, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will not issue a CDL to just anyone.
If you’re a person who stays generally pretty healthy, you may wonder why a physical is necessary to drive a truck. So that raises a few good questions. What are the requirements for a DOT physical? What are the new DOT physical requirements I should be aware of this year? How do I set up an appointment for a physical?
Below, we’ll walk you through what the physical is, what it entails, and what’s new in 2023 so you can get on the road again.
What is a DOT Physical and Who Needs One?
A Department of Transportation Physical is simply a series of medical examinations to determine your ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle. It incorporates physical flexibility and strength as well as visual acuity, mental health, and cognitive function.
Drivers who operate commercial vehicles on the interstate with a GVWR of more than 10k pounds are required to get a medical examiner’s certificate every two years according to federal regulations.
Also, if you transport hazardous materials or operate a vehicle that carries more than 15 people (8 people if you are paid) you are required to keep an up-to-date physical on record.
DOT medical card requirements and physicals were instituted to ensure that drivers do not suffer from conditions that could keep them from safely doing their jobs and therefore making the roads unsafe for everyone. Some conditions can manifest quickly and if drivers are not aware of their conditions they can become a danger to themselves and others on the roadways.
What are the Requirements for a DOT Physical?
The exam itself is a holistic look at your physicality. When operating a large vehicle on the road, you must meet all the standards of the physical in order to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. It is a major responsibility to drive a truck and from start to finish, we all take safety very seriously.
These tests typically take less than an hour, depending on how healthy you already are. However, regardless of speed, here are the basic items you can expect during a DOT physical:
A Physical Exam
First, the medical examiner will take a physical assessment of you, focusing on things such as lungs, back, your ability to bend and twist, hypertension, your breathing, arthritis, and overall general sense of well-being. The job isn’t overly taxing physically but there are requirements for performing basic functions.
Drivers with missing limbs, fingers, or toes can still qualify by obtaining a variance through their home state. They will need to carry it with them at all times.
A Vision Test
Drivers are required to have at least 20/40 vision. This can be achieved with or without corrective lenses. Your peripheral vision will also be tested, as will your ability to distinguish between colors like red, green, and amber.
A Hearing Test
Drivers must be able to detect what is known as a “forced whisper” from more than 5 feet away with or without a hearing aid.
A Urine Test
This test is mainly used to detect underlying health issues such as diabetes. Drug testing is usually not part of a DOT physical, however, it is still part of a pre-employment screening when applying for a driving job. This year, there are new requirements on this subject, so see the “What’s New” section below.
Blood Pressure & Pulse Checks
Drivers need to maintain a blood pressure under 140/90 to pass the physical exam. If you struggle with high blood pressure, a change in diet and increasing the amount of water you drink per day can have a significant effect on blood pressure.
If you are outside of that range, you may be given a 3-6 month or 1 year certificate and be required to retest again when it expires. This is to give you time to work on getting those numbers down because these changes take time.
What are the New DOT Physical Requirements for 2023?
Each year, the requirements for the physical are reassessed by medical professionals and new requirements are added just as older, unnecessary requirements are discarded. This year, there are a few new rules to be aware of listed below.
Typically, drug testing is not part of the DOT physical and is left up to the employers. This year, however, the FMCSA rules state that drivers can be disqualified to drive if they use any Schedule 1 controlled substance. This includes marijuana, even if the user has a prescription.
A CDL driver who takes prescription medications without a valid prescription can also be disqualified. The following other substances will be screened for in the urine test:
- Amphetamines (methamphetamine, amphetamine, MDMA, or MDA)
- Opiates (heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, oxymorphone, hydromorphone)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
Any other habit-forming narcotic will also be flagged as a possible disqualifier. If a driver has a valid prescription for a non-schedule 1 drug, they will not be disqualified if the doctor has advised them it will not impede their ability to do the job.
Under 49 CFR, part 391 & 391.41, CDL drivers must have at least 20/40 vision in each eye with or without lenses. They also must have at least a peripheral vision of 70″ in both eyes.
According to 49 CFR, part 391 & 391.41, CDL drivers must be able to hear a forced whisper from 5 feet away and if they use hearing aids, they must be worn during vehicle operation.
A driver must maintain a resting, at-ease blood pressure of 140/90 or less in order to pass the DOT physical.
SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Truck Driver Per Diem in 2023
How do I Schedule a DOT Physical?
It is easiest to start by asking your primary physician about the DOT physical. They themselves may be certified to administer the test or know where to go.
However, if you are unsure, employers can search the FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners and let you know where to get checked out.
What should I bring?
When you go to your exam, make sure you are prepared to pass! Since you know what will be tested, here is a quick packing list before you go that will help you be prepared for the entire DOT physical:
- A valid drivers’ license and alternate picture ID
- Eye glasses, contacts, hearing aids, anything you use to enhance your senses while driving
- A complete list of medications you’re taking and the contact information of your family physician
- If you have medical conditions that could be considered an issue, pick up a release from your primary care physician stating your condition will not impair your ability to do the job
- An FMCSA waiver if you’ve been exempted before from any test requirements
- The DOT physical form. It’s probably best to go ahead and download the form and fill it out before arriving. You can get the form HERE.
FAQs about the DOT Physical
How Long is a DOT physical good for?
Regulations state that a new physical must be assessed and passed every two years. Mark your calendars ahead of time and don’t let the deadline sneak up on you!
If I fail the DOT physical, how does that affect my job?
You may receive a 3-6 month or 1 year certificate instead of a 2-year. You will need to be re-tested after that certificate. Multiple failures could result in termination and prevent future employment.
There are many sad stories about drivers failing their test and are unable to continue working. Taking care of your health with regular exercise and a healthy diet are not only important for keeping your job, but ensuring you are able to enjoy a long and happy life.
How much does a DOT physical cost?
You can expect to pay between $90 and $150 unless your employer picks up some or all of the tab.
When do I get the all-clear to drive?
Once you are finished with the physical, your results will go to the lab. Once the lab results come back clear, you will be given the green light to drive.
Will I have to run on a treadmill for this test?
Probably not. After all, the job doesn’t require running. However, if you have a history of heart problems you may want to bring a copy of your current exercise tolerance treadmill test with you if you have one. There are many other ways of testing your physical well-being in this day and age than jogging.
Healthy You = Healthy Us
Driving a truck in unfamiliar territory on narrow streets can definitely be stressful. Taking care of your health allows you to handle these situations with grace and skill so you can get home sooner and safer.
We help our drivers stay motivated to take care of their physical, emotional, and mental health because we realize that a healthy you equals a healthy us. Keeping your hands on the wheel of your life is not only financially beneficial, but it raises your quality of life and contributes to your happiness as well.
Want to join a team who cares about your health as well as your skill? Apply to drive with Veltri Logistics and you’ll join a team of peers who support and care for one another beyond the routes we drive and freight we deliver.