Even as technology automates jobs and completely flips the way companies do business on its head, some industries like trucking still play in an important role in the American economy. Currently, there are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States and 8.7 million folks employed by the truck driving industry.
Many truck drivers take pride in being truckers. But doing their jobs effectively requires being physically and mentally fit to do the job and passing any tests that are required. That’s where a DOT physical comes in.
What is a DOT physical? It’s a medical exam required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that all drivers must pass before they earn a commercial license. The FMCSA has specific protocols and guidelines to follow as they fill out the forms for the DOT physical. Essentially what happens to drivers is that various parts of their health will be tested: blood pressure, vision, hearing, pulse, etc. At the end of the DOT physical, one of three things will happen:
- Drivers will be cleared to drive for two years, which essentially means they have an acceptable bill of health.
- Drivers may pass the exam, but may be required to follow up with a doctor.
- Drivers will be told they don’t meet the required standards and may need to seek a second opinion following the exam.
So if you’re pursuing your commercial driver’s license and you need to take the DOT physical, you’re probably wondering what to expect?
When you go to your local medical clinic or urgent care, you’re going to need to bring a list of the medications you take and the dosages as well as the name of your primary doctor. You can save yourself some time ahead of time by filling out a medical history questionnaire before you go. If you’ve got any particular medical issues, you’re going to need to bring things like glasses or contacts or hearing aids with you.
If you’ve got other medical issues (diabetes, heart issues, etc), you’re going to bring the results of any recent medical tests with you or any letters from specialists that detail your medical issues.
When it comes time for the exam at your local medical clinic, here’s what you can expect and need to prepare for:
- Physical exam: A doctor is going to look over your general appearance, your eyes, your ears, your lungs and chest, your heart, your mouth and throat, your spine and extremities, any neurological issues and several other categories. In total, the physical part of the DOT physical will cover a dozen categories.
- Blood pressure: A doctor will check your blood pressure and your pulse, keeping an eye out for high blood pressure or irregular heartbeat.
- Hearing: For truck drivers, they must be able to hear what’s known as a forced whisper from a distance of at least five feet without using a hearing aid. This equates to about the average hearing loss in a person.
- Urinalysis: More than likely, you’ll be asked to give a urine sample, which doctors will check for conditions like diabetes and to make sure your urine isn’t tainted by drugs (since companies are more than likely going to want you to be clean on the job).
- Vision: Vision is very important for any truck driver because—point blank—they need to be able to see what they’re doing. Truck drivers are required to have a minimum of 20/40 vision in each eye regardless of whether or not they have visual aids. In addition, drivers must have at least 70” peripheral in the horizontal meridian, which is again measured in each eye.
Once drivers have passed an exam, they will receive a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), Form MCSA-5876 and a copy of the exam will be sent to your primary care provider.
There’s still an overwhelming need for truck drivers in the United States, but anyone interested in truck driving needs to go through the proper protocols. That means visiting an urgent care—something that three million Americans do each week—and getting your DOT physical exam taken care of. All of your medical particulars will be checked out and if you’re healthy and fit, you’ll receive a passing grade and be one step closer to getting your truck driver’s license.