When Is a DOT Physical Necessary?

DOT physical Ooltewah, TN

A DOT physical is a medical examination that is needed in order to work as a commercial driver in the U.S. DOT stands for “Department of Transport”. A DOT physical includes checks to assess the specific health issues associated with driving long distances. It is much like the physical checkups required in other fields for occupational health.

Why do drivers need health checkups?

Driving may not seem an obviously strenuous activity. But, anyone who does it for a living knows otherwise. Sitting at the wheel for long hours every day takes a toll on endurance. Driving can require varied shifts, both late and early. This can place further stress on the person’s metabolism.

Drivers need to be in good health overall. They need good eyesight first and foremost. The ability to concentrate for extended periods of time is also necessary. Truck drivers must be sufficiently fit and strong to load and unload vehicles.

Who needs a DOT physical?

There are four broad categories of people who are required to get a DOT physical:

  • Drivers who transport hazardous chemicals
  • Drivers who are paid to transport 8+ people at a time
  • Drivers transporting 15+ people, whether paid or unpaid
  • Drivers in charge of a motorized vehicle weighing over 10,000 lbs (gross weight, including passengers and load)

“Commercial Drivers” include truckers, bus drivers and construction vehicle operators. Also, this includes anyone requiring a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) license. It is not generally for taxi drivers or people employed to drive passenger cars or light goods vehicles. The Department of Transport requires HGV drivers to get a medical checkup before taking commercial driving work. A DOT physical shows the person is physically fit to drive commercially for two years. People with diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure may have to get an annual DOT physical.

What does a DOT physical involve?

The DOT physical begins with filling in a medical history form. The person should mention any medications he or she is taking, past surgeries and their general health condition. Then follows a physical examination, including vision, hearing and blood pressure test. A DOT physical also includes a urine test. This will test for alcohol and drugs, besides medical conditions. It is extremely important that commercial drivers be of sober disposition.

With a few exceptions, most conditions that a DOT physical checks for do not prohibit a person from commercial driving. Extremely poor eyesight, beyond the ability of glasses or contact lenses to correct, may be an issue. Diabetes and heart issues can be a barrier to commercial driving. But, that is usually only if the person is not managing the condition already. Deafness and narcolepsy may also keep a person from commercial driving.

Get yourself prepared for a DOT physical

At the Department of Transport, you can find a list of registered nurses and doctors who can administer a DOT physical. If you have been asked by an employer to get a DOT physical, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment. Be sure to inform the doctor of any pre-existing medical conditions and related medications. A current DOT physical certificate is a requirement for all commercial Heavy Goods Vehicle drivers in the U.S.

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