What You Need to Know About Your DOT-Required Physical

Whether you’re starting a career as a truck driver or you’ve been a truck driver for years, you know that you need a CDL (commercial driver’s license) to legally operate your vehicle. And according to DOT regulations, all truck drivers are required to receive a physical and carry a medical card with them each time they start a haul.

This physical needs to be provided by a licensed medical examiner. You can find a list of providers in your area by searching the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry.

But what happens when you find an examiner and schedule your physical? What can you expect to happen during the exam, and how can you prepare for it? Below, we provide answers to these questions so you learn everything you need to know about this required physical. Read on to discover just how crucial this exam is to your career as a truck driver.

How to Prepare for Your Physical

Like any medical exam, you should prepare for your physical before you actually meet with the medical examiner. To prepare for your physical, use the following tips:

  • Wear loose clothes.
  • Take your prescription medication as usual.
  • Avoid using the restroom before the physical. You’ll give a urine sample that the doctors will use for a kidney screening.
  • Bring a valid driver’s license.
  • Make a list of current medications you’re taking to give to the examiner.
  • Wear corrective lenses if you have them. Bring a copy of your most recent eye exam report if possible.

If you suffer from any medical conditions or illnesses or recently had surgery, you must also bring a Medical Release Opinion Form with you. The doctor who treated (or is treating) you for these health conditions must sign the form. The medical examiner will then use this information to legally review your medical information.

If you don’t provide this information to the medical examiner, he or she may temporarily disqualify you for a medical certificate. As a result, you might not be able to get your commercial driver’s license as soon as you hoped.

You also need to bring a printed copy of the MEDICAL EXAM REPORT for the medical examiner to fill out. Before your appointment, you must complete the first two sections with your personal information and medical history.

What the Medical Examiner Checks

The medical examiner will do the following during your physical:

  • Test your vision.
  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Check your pulse.
  • Listen to your lungs and heart.
  • Look at your ears, mouth, throat, and eyes.
  • Perform a hernia check.
  • Feel and examine your spine for deformities.
  • Press gently on your abdomen and check it for abnormalities.
  • Observe your overall appearance.

And, as previously mentioned, you’ll submit a urine sample so the examiner can run a kidney analysis. The examiner may also use this sample to conduct a drug test. However, a drug screening is often done separately from the physical.

As your examiner completes each step of the physical, he or she will make note of his or her findings on the exam report. After this brief exam, you and the examiner will then discuss your medical history, current medical conditions and illnesses, and any hazards these conditions create for you as a truck driver.

If you completely meet the DOT’s and FMCSA’s requirements, you’ll receive your medical certificate. This certificate is valid for two years. Depending on the examiner’s findings, however, you may be approved for a certificate that is valid for a year or less.

How You Can Maintain Your Health While on the Road

Once you have your medical certificate, you should be eligible to receive your commercial driver’s license. Though these licenses are valid for several years, you’ll have to receive multiple physicals during that time to maintain it.

Follow your medical care provider’s instructions to maintain good overall health. As you drive across the state or country, use the following tips to maintain good health and increase your chances of being approved for additional medical certificates in the future:

  • Limit the amount of caffeine you drink to maintain low blood pressure.
  • Limit your sugar intake.
  • Quit using nicotine and tobacco products.
  • Take time to stretch and meditate during long hauls.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Eat healthy foods, such as potassium-rich fruits and vegetables.

You should also invest in products like back rests and seat pillows to properly support your body as you sit in your seat.

Final Words of Advice

Use the information in this blog to prepare for your upcoming physical. Work closely with your health care provider and your FMCSA and DOT approved medical examiner to make any necessary changes to your health and lifestyle. Adhere to those guidelines so you can pass your physical and receive your commercial driver’s license.

Once you become certified as a truck driver, also use the tips found in this article to help you maintain good health as you drive across the country. These small steps can keep you healthy so you can pass future physicals, stay certified as a truck driver, and continue with the career you love.