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What to Expect in a DOT Physical

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The DOT physical is a multifaceted exam that evaluates your past, present and future health to verify that you are physically, mentally and emotionally fit to drive a commercial vehicle. It involves an extensive questionnaire that points out potential issues, a complete blood and urine workup and a physical exam. Be prepared for all of these components, as you are required to complete and pass this exam to receive or renew a commercial driver's license.

What to Take With You to Your Exam

If you go to your appointment with a DOT-certified physician without everything you need, you will have to reschedule. Take your completed DOT exam form and your driver’s license and pocket certificate. Do not forget your glasses or contacts and hearing aid, since you can be tested with your allowed accommodations. Take any required medicine, as normally scheduled, before your exam to demonstrate the controlled nature of any conditions you have, and take the packages with you to your appointment. Also have for your examiner any release forms regarding past heart problems and a sleep study if you have have a sleep apnea condition. Document all of your doctor's contact information in case he needs to clarify any conditions. As you will be taking a urine test, do not urinate just before your appointment and drink plenty of fluids so you are ready.

Health History Review

Since DOT physicals are required at least every two years, your health records will be part of your road map to certification, especially if you were considered borderline in previous years. Your physician will review your past blood pressure readings and any past illnesses or injuries to verify that you should be considered for a two-year license or a temporary one lasting either three months or one year. While your health questionnaire will help flesh out any past conditions, your doctor will also investigate your past DOT physicals and general health records to help determine your current condition.

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What Will Be Checked in the Office

Your exam will be similar to a yearly health screening, with an emphasis on conditions that would impair your ability to drive. You will have your height, weight, and vision screened. Your physician will check your blood pressure and listen to your heartbeat and your lungs. He will draw blood and request a urine sample to screen for drugs and other health concerns. You will be screened for a hernia and spine abnormalities and you will be given a neurological exam. Your physician will also physically check your abdomen, pushing around on it to detect any abnormalities.

Deal Breakers

Unfortunately there are several conditions that will automatically cause you to fail your DOT exam. To pass, you must have at least 20/40 vision in both eyes with or without glasses or contacts, and you must not be color blind . Failing your drug test will also prevent your certification. If you have diabetes, you can only pass your exam if it can be treated with oral medications, not injectable insulin. If you have lost or impaired limbs that affect your ability to drive, you will fail the exam. Epilepsy or seizures can also disqualify you from passing. Certain mental health conditions such as narcolepsy, chronic schizophrenia and those requiring first-generation antidepressants can disqualify you, while others such as medically-treated attention deficit disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and personality disorders can cause a shorter approval period of typically one year. You can appeal a failed test by contacting either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or your state's department of transportation.

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