What is the Purpose of a DOT Physical?

A “DOT (Department of Transportation) physical” is a physical examination by a licensed medical examiner who is listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration National Registry. Truckers must take and “pass” this physical exam in order to do their job. It is meant to show that the trucker is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. If everything “checks out,” the trucker gets a Medical Examination Certificate valid for 24 months.

There are several aspects of the exam, testing various physical abilities. For instance, a trucker’s vision needs to be at least 20/40 in each eye, with or without correction. In addition, truckers need at least 70 degrees of peripheral vision on the horizontal meridian in each eye and to be able to recognize/distinguish traffic signal colors.

Driving a truck is a big responsibility, and for that reason a trucker’s hearing must be able to perceive a “forced whisper voice” at 5 feet or more with or without a hearing aid.

Stress is a part of a truck driver’s job, and stress is known to raise blood pressure. For truckers, a 140/90 or lower blood pressure is the acceptable reading to pass the DOT physical. Note: in some cases blood pressure more than 140/90 but less than 180/110 may qualify for a “shorter interval” Medical Examination Certificate.

For those unfamiliar with the DOT physical, one of the chief questions is this: “What medical conditions could disqualify me?” There are several: history of epilepsy, diabetes requiring the use of insulin, the use of methadone, the use of a narcotic, amphetamine or other habit-forming drug without a prescription, the loss or impairment of an arm or limb, and/or a history of alcoholism.