What are requirements to pass a DOT Physical?

For drivers who are paid to operate a motor vehicle, they are likely required to complete and pass a DOT physical. The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the completion of these exams for professional drivers, which includes truck and bus drivers. The DOT physical is required in order to maintain a commercial driving license and ensure the driver can safely perform their responsibilities. The DOT physical must be completed by a qualified examiner which can be a doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner.

A DOT physical typically begins with a review of the driver’s medical history. The driver will also be asked to list any medications. The following will also be completed during the physical:

  • Blood pressure and pulse check
  • Check for abdomen abnormalities and hernia
  • Check for spine deformities
  • Hearing test, drivers must be able to hear a “forced whisper” from at least 5 feet away
  • Heart and lung evaluation for murmurs or impaired respiratory functions
  • Mouth and throat evaluation to detect any breathing or swallowing issues
  • Neurological exam, ensure good coordination and reflexes
  • Urinalysis to detect any underlying medical conditions
  • Vision test, at least 20/40 is required and corrective lenses are allowed

Once the driver passes their DOT physical, a medical certificate will be awarded. In the event additional medical monitoring is not required, the physical is valid for two years. In cases of any issues or concerns, the certificate can expire after three months, six months, or one year. If the driver fails the physical, a certificate will not be awarded.

Below are the five components of a DOT Physical.

  1. Vision Test – The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all drivers have good vision to operate a commercial vehicle. The driver must have 20/40 vision, which can be achieved with or without corrective lenses. Drivers who have monovision, may be disqualified from receiving a DOT medical card.
  2. Drug Test – Drug testing may also be performed to ensure the driver does not use any habit-forming substances. It may be a requirement to complete drug testing for individuals working within certain DOT departments with safety-sensitive positions. This may include the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Federal Railroad Administration. DOT-regulated drug tests are required to only use urine samples. The DOT drug test will screen for cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, THC, marijuana, and PCP. If the driver tests positive for any of these drugs, there may be additional follow up to determine if there is an alternative medical explanation for the identified substances.
  3. Hearing Test – The DOT requires that the driver has good hearing to safely operate a commercial vehicle. More specifically, the DOT physical requires that drivers are able to hear a forced whisper with one ear within five feet without the use of a hearing aid. Drivers can still pass the DOT physical if they use a hearing aid in one ear.
  4. Brain and Neurological Screening – DOT physicals includes brain and neurological screening. This aids in identifying brain injuries and neurological disorders which could result in epilepsy or seizures. People who are diagnosed with epilepsy or who have a history of seizures, will be disqualified from receiving a DOT medical card. The disqualification applies even if seizures are currently controlled. This goal of this policy is to ensure the safety of drivers, passengers, and those around them.
  5. Cardiovascular Screening – Another requirement for passing the DOT physical is good heart health. Based on evidence, drivers of commercial vehicles are more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease and events which can put them at risk for injury and death. The driver’s blood pressure is taken to assess the possible risk for heart attack or disease. For drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of medical illness and sudden death.

What Causes you to Fail a DOT Physical?