Truck Driver Health Qualifications

The FMCSA’s regulations2 state that a truck driver is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle (the truck of CDL drivers) if the driver:

  • Has met medical examination requirement
  • Has no loss of a foot, a leg, a hand, or an arm, or has been granted a skill performance evaluation certificate
  • Doesn’t have an impairment of hand or finger that interferes with the ability to hold the wheel and drive the truck
  • Doesn’t have an impairment of arm, foot, or leg which interferes with the ability to perform normal tasks associated with operating a commercial motor vehicle
  • Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes requiring insulin for control
  • Doesn’t have any breathing problems (or respiratory dysfunction) that could be a problem while driving
  • Has no current clinical diagnosis of high blood pressure that could interfere with trucking responsibilities
  • Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of rheumatic, arthritic, orthopedic, muscular, neuromuscular, or vascular disease which interferes with his/her ability to control and operate a commercial motor vehicle safely
  • Doesn’t have a diagnosis or medical history of epilepsy or any other condition that could cause a driver to lose consciousness while driving
  • Has no current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism
  • Has no current clinical diagnosis of myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, coronary insufficiency, thrombosis, or any other cardiovascular disease of a variety known to be accompanied by syncope, dyspnea, collapse, or congestive cardiac failure (This one looks complicated, but it’s basically excluding drivers with heart conditions that could overtake them while driving or performing trucking duties. Check with your doctor or physician for more information.)
  • Has no mental, nervous, organic, or functional disease or psychiatric disorder likely to interfere with his/her ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle safely
  • Can see well enough at a distance without corrective lenses and can tell the difference in light colors
  • Meets hearing standards and can pass a hearing test
  • Does not use narcotics, amphetamines, or any other illegal drugs. Prescribed drugs can’t interfere with driving, either

All of this medical information might seem like a headache, but these qualifications make for a safer highway for all drivers. The best way to ensure you currently meet all CDL truck driver medical requirements is to speak with a representative from your truck driving school.

 

1https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/faq/what-medical-conditions-disqualify-commercial-bus-or-truck-driver
2§391.41: Physical qualifications for drivers: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/391.41

What kind of health conditions could potentially keep you from getting a CDL license?

Truck drivers have the major responsibility of driving massive machinery across the country, and they should keep up their health for best performance. Just like our trucks, if we don’t keep up with maintenance we’re more likely to break down. That’s very dangerous for everyone on the road, especially when we’re talking about a large tractor and trailer.

The FMCSA’s qualifications for truck drivers begins:

“The truck driver must be medically qualified to not only drive the vehicle safely but also to do pre and post-trip safety inspections, secure the load, and make sure it has not shifted.”1

While actually driving the truck takes up most of a CDL truck driver’s time, things like unloading and making inspections are just as important. The driver must be physically fit enough and in a healthy enough condition to perform their duties.

The first of the FMCSA’s disqualifying conditions are “Hearing Loss, Vision Loss, Epilepsy and Insulin Use. Drivers who require a Diabetes or Vision exemption to safely drive a CMV in addition to those pre-printed on the certification form are disqualified until they receive such an exemption.”1

Basically the regulations are in place to make sure that each driver doesn’t have a condition that could potentially put them or other drivers at harm. The regulations also make sure that truck drivers can provide proof of their health condition (usually through a medical certificate).

What Does a DOT Physical Consist of?

In this article, we’ll go over what the Department of Transportation or (DOT) physical covers, what to bring, and where to learn more about the process.

Why Are Physicals Required for Truck Drivers?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the lead government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV) and CMV drivers. The FMCSA’s mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and busses. One way the FMCSA upholds this mission is by requiring commercial drivers possessing a Commercial Driver’s License to obtain and maintain a valid Medical Examiner’s Certification, more commonly known as a DOT physical. The DOT physical completed by a Certified Medical Examiner ensures that the CDL holder meets DOT physical qualifications for a driver. If you are unable to obtain a valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate, trucking carriers cannot allow you to perform safety-sensitive functions which include driving for them.

What To Bring to the DOT Physical

There are specific requirements for the DOT physical that involve the health of the truck driver. You should fill out the health history questionnaire truthfully and accurately. Doing this prior to your appointment saves time. Bring a list of all medications you take, if applicable. This comprises the names of the medication, dosages, dosage regimen, and the names and addresses of your physicians.

There are certain situations where more items or documents may need to come with you to the examination. Examples include:

  • Drivers with heart conditions. Bring as much documentation as you have. At a minimum, they require a cardiologist’s letter. This should include a “safe to work” recommendation, health history, and a list of medications.
  • Drivers with diabetes. Bring the most recent lab results showing blood sugar logs and Hemoglobin A1C (HgAIC).
  • Drivers with hearing or vision problems. When applicable, bring hearing aids, contact lenses, or eyeglasses.

These are the most common, yet there is a variety of circumstances where other items or documents may be required. These are:

  • Drivers with high blood pressure
  • Drivers who have nighttime sleep disturbance (sleep apnea) and use a CPAP machine including a 30-day CPAP compliance report
  • Drivers who take blood thinners like Coumadin

The Physical

The physical itself includes specific components. These include vision, hearing, blood pressure, blood rate, urinalysis, and a physical exam.

 Vision Test

Whether the vision has correction, all drivers must have 20/40 vision at a minimum. The other requirement is 70″ peripheral in the horizontal meridian, at a minimum. This measurement is in both the right and left eyes.

Hearing Test

The FMCSA requires:

The tests for hearing are the forced whisper test or an audiometric test. For the whispered voice test, the driver should be 5 feet from the examiner with the ear being tested turned toward the examiner. The other ear is covered. Using the breath which remains after a forced expiration, the examiner whispers words or random numbers such as 66,18.23. The examiner should not use only sibilants (s-sounding test materials). If the individual fails the whisper test, the examiner should administer the audiometric test.

Pulse Rate and Blood Pressure

This test is self-explanatory. The examiner uses it to detect an irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure.

Urinalysis

The urine test provides results for medical issues of the kidneys or things like diabetes. It is not a drug screening.

Medical Requirements for getting a CDL License

The Physical Exam

The physical exam for the DOT uses a Certified Medical Examiner and has two dozen components. After the exam, the doctor determines if a driver is fit enough to be a safe professional truck driver.

The Physical Exam covers:

General Appearance

This simple check ensures you look healthy and alert.

Spine

The spine and other musculoskeletal areas get checked for debilitating issues. These include tender areas, poor range of motion or limited motion, prior surgeries, and anything else relevant.

Ears

This differs from what you usually get at a hearing test. Instead, the doctor looks for specific issues such as a perforated eardrum or tympanic membrane. 

Eyes

This checkup is more like the extras an eye doctor checks for during an eye exam. It’s not a vision test. Instead, this includes looking for macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and more.

Neurological

The neurological part of the exam covers a wide range of conditions. These include asymmetric deep tendon reflexes, impaired equilibrium, and speech pattern or coordination ataxia.

Throat and Mouth

This part of the exam looks for issues with the throat and mouth. This includes impairment with swallowing or breathing.

Extremities

This exam looks for impaired extremities or limbs.

Viscera and Abdomen

The examiner looks for problems with muscle weakness, viscera (the internal organs), and things like an enlarged liver.

Heart

Issues looked for in the heart include a pacemaker, extra or abnormal sounds, a heart murmur, etc.

Genito-urinary

This is a search for a hernia or hernias.

Vascular

This is the same thing as your circulatory system and the doctor will look for things like varicose veins, carotid, or an abnormal pulse – for example.

Chest and Lungs

The doctor ensures there are no issues with areas like your respiratory function. He also looks for abnormal breathing and cyanosis, which is low oxygen or poor circulation.

DOT Paperwork

Along with your medical information, they require specific forms for the DOT. These include:

Medical Examination Report (MER) Form, MCSA-5875

This form has important information, including your exam, and your health history. Included in the MER form is your driver’s information, too. This form gets turned in after the exam’s completion.

Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), Form MCSA-5876

This is the form you get after you pass the DOT physical exam.

Insulin-treated Diabetes Mellitus Assessment, MCSA-5870

This form only applies to those with diabetes treated with insulin. If you fall into this category, your doctor must complete it 45 days before your DOT physical.

Want To Drive a Truck Professionally?

Once you have your Class A CDL license you are ready to apply for entry-level truck driver jobs. Attending a truck driving school like Roadmaster ensures a career services associate helps you exponentially. This includes applying for jobs and starting your new career.

Placement Associates help you find companies best for your situation – and this is during the first few days of school. Your job applications get reviewed and Placement Associates help you during the submission process to potential employers.

We offer in-house financing to those who qualify to help cover the cost of tuition. And tuition reimbursement from an employing carrier could cover up to 100 percent of the cost of school!

Ready for a rewarding, essential career? Contact Roadmaster by filling out the application form or calling us at 1-800-831-1300.