DOT Physical Exams: The Basics

February 9, 2016 12:02 pm Published by Comment

Whether you’re new the trucking industry or starting to think about an exciting and fulfilling career behind the wheel, soon enough you’ll find yourself reading about the Department of Transportation’s medical safety examination for drivers. Most folks refer to this ubiquitous procedure as the DOT physical. Without this green light, you and your trucking career will be stuck in park. So, let’s learn a bit more about this exam, what it entails, and why it’s so important.

The DOT physical is a regular health examination to be completed by certain qualified medical professionals. The tests are generally inexpensive (between $75-$150), and may be covered by the truck driver, his or her employer, or many health insurance plans. The test often won’t take much longer than an hour or so, and it’s much like a typical medical check-up. Still, the process is extremely important. Without it, your commercial operation of vehicles over 10,000 pounds is illegal and everyone on the road, including yourself, is being put at risk of serious injury.


So what should you expect?

Before the full examination, it’ll be up to you to be honest about any health problems you may have experienced in the past on the DOT examination form. Have you had kidney disease, seizures, brain injuries, a stroke, or digestive problems? The information you fill out on the upper portions of your form will help guide the examiner in making sure you’re ready to hit the road, so be honest. Lying or concealing medical issues can have serious consequences.

During the DOT physical itself, the examiner will make numerous observations to determine whether or not the driver’s health is up to par for safe operation of commercial vehicles. The examiner will test your vision, blood pressure, pulse, and check your spine and abdomen areas for abnormalities that could signal health problems. They’ll also conduct a general examination of your ears, mouth, eyes, and throat to make sure things look good. You should also expect a hernia check and a urine screening to check for kidney problems.

From here, things will get slightly more conversational. Your examiner will review the information you’ve provided on your DOT physical form, and ask you questions concerning your overall health. For example, if you regularly take over the counter or prescription medication, the examiner will discuss these medications and their potential impact on your driving abilities. They’ll also be keen to discuss any use of alcohol, tobacco, or other narcotics. This is an important phase of the examination, as this is where the examiner’s initial tests combine with your physical and mental history to build a full picture of your safe-driving profile. As always, be honest and you’ll be just fine.

Once this phase is complete, it’ll be time for the examiner to tally up his or her findings to determine the outcome of your exam. Most people are ready to roll, and leave the exam with a certificate good for two years of logging miles and stacking dollars. If certain health issues are concerning, the examiner may opt for granting a shorter certificate so that you can be re-assessed down the road apiece. Of course, it is always possible that you don’t pass the DOT physical, but a little bit of healthy habits will go a long way towards keeping you on the road. Stay tuned to our next blog for some ideas on doing just that!

Are you interested in learning more about an exciting and rewarding career in the trucking industry? Take a minute or two and get in touch with a Smith Transport recruiter at 866-265-3718 or feel free to apply online. All of us at Smith Transport would be happy to hear from you! And while you’re at it, check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

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