What Does a DOT Physical Consist of?

This is a basic guide on how to study for a CDL pre-trip inspection test

 

As a professional truck driver, there are crucial tasks to complete to be safe and stay compliant. One of the most important tasks is a CDL pre-trip inspection. Not only does this keep you and everyone else on the road safer, but it is required to remain compliant with FMCSA rules and regulations.

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 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.

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 only 45 days before your DOT physical.

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