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Dr. Mark Hosko, MD, January 6 2023

What Is A DOT Physical?

What Does A DOT Physical Exam Consist Of?

Professional truck drivers and bus drivers can expect their boss to require a DOT physical or a Department of Transportation physical. The DOT physical exam is a test that everyone who wants to drive a commercial motor vehicle must take (CMV). This test makes sure that all commercial drivers' daily health checks are up to par. In addition, it ensures that you or other drivers of commercial vehicles can handle the long hours and stress of the job. Learn all the information you need and what to expect. 

What is a DOT physical?

The Department of Transportation requires all commercially licensed drivers to get DOT physicals to ensure they are healthy enough to drive a commercial vehicle safely. Drivers who carry more than 15 passengers, get paid to drive a vehicle that can support eight or more people, carry dangerous materials, or have a gross combined weight of 10,000 pounds will need this type of physical.

Under certain conditions, a driver may be able to get out of some DOT physical requirements that they would fail otherwise. There are exceptions for people with diabetes, vision, hearing, and physical disabilities (such as missing a finger or having a prosthesis). These exemptions are given on a case-by-case basis. Generally, exemptions are given when it can be shown that the possible problem is well-managed and that granting the request will not cause any harm. 

You will get a certificate and a copy to give to your employer if you pass the physical. Even though the information will not be sent directly to the employer, it could be given out if the employer upon your request. At the end of the day, a DOT test will make sure that a truck driver knows how to drive and is healthy enough to do so. Also, it is important to stay up-to-date on your state's rules about driving big vehicles since they can change at any time.

What do they look for in a DOT physical?

The Department of Transportation says that a licensed medical examiner must give you your physical. During the DOT exam, your doctor will check your hearing, eyesight, and blood pressure. They will also check for peripheral vision. Your doctor will also look at your medical history, medications, and other information. 

Essentially a DOT physical will check for health in five categories, although depending on the person, the exam may be more extensive. Here are the main elements checked:

By the end of the test, your doctor will have a comprehensive look at your health and determine if your body can handle the physical and mental demands of log term driving of dangerous machinery. 

What does a DOT physical consist of?

The doctor who does your DOT physical will ask you detailed questions about your medical history. Other questions will include medications, tobacco use, alcohol use, and illegal drug use. In addition, a physical exam will check height, weight, blood pressure, hearing, appearance, eyes, ears, mouth, heart, spine, neurological health, and much more. Essentially the exam will check for your entire body's health from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet and everything in between. 

Furthermore, they will also check for other health concerns with a urinalysis to check for protein, blood, sugar, and specific gravity. Your doctor can tell from these tests if you need more tests to look for other health problems. You might also need a sleep apnea test if you have signs of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which you stop breathing while you sleep. 

No matter where you get your DOT physical, you have to meet the same requirements. This is because drivers often cross state lines when they go on trips, and safety rules for drivers are the same everywhere. If you need to take a medical leave at any point in your career, you may need to get a new DOT physical. 

Re-taking the test depends on whether the reason for your medical leave could affect your ability to drive a commercial vehicle safely. Most of the time, it is up to the motor carrier to decide if you need a new physical and if your CDL physical form should be in your driver qualification or DQ file. Your DOT physical does not have to be in your DQ file, but if it is, your employer must treat your DQ file as confidential information to follow ADA rules. 

How much does a DOT physical cost?

Unfortunately, DOT exams do not have a standard cost. Prices vary, and some companies will pay for your CDL physical, and others will not. On average, a DOT physical with a doctor costs between $85 and $226. However, some sites charge as little as $50. Even some drugstores, such as CVS, provide DOT physicals with prices listed up front.

What disqualifies you from getting a CDL?

A felony or misdemeanor history could disqualify you from getting a CDL. Here is a list of some of the disqualifying crimes:

Driving a CMV when, as a result of prior violations committed operating a CMV. Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a CMV, including but not limited to the crimes of motor vehicle manslaughter, homicide by motor vehicle, and negligent homicide

Using a vehicle in the commission of a felony involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance

Using a CMV in the commission of a felony involving an act or practice of severe forms of trafficking in persons

Keep in mind that the amount of time that you are disqualified from operating a CMV differs between the above offenses. Additionally, whether or not it is your first offense can also change the disqualification time.

Does coffee, alcohol, or cigarette usage affect a DOT physical?

Try to avoid coffee, tobacco, and energy drinks about a day before your test. Your blood pressure can go up by up to 20 points if you use these things. If your blood pressure is already high, this may be enough to keep you from getting a new medical card.

How do you prepare for a DOT physical?

If you want to save time at the physical, you can fill out the driver's part of the test at home. Next, you will need basic information about your doctors, medications, hearing aids, contacts, or glasses. If you have diabetes, keep track of your blood sugar readings and your most recent Hgb A1C. 

People with sleep apnea will need records from the last 90 days from their CPAP machine. If you have heart problems, you need to get a DOT physical and a letter from your cardiologist saying you are okay to drive. In addition, bring any results from heart tests, strokes, brain tumors, seizures, or other neurological issues. 

A letter and medical records from your doctor if you are taking any drugs that can make you sleepy or are controlled substances. If you have lost the use of an arm or leg for good, your doctor should write you a letter with any work restrictions. Finally, if you are taking a blood thinner, you will need a letter from your doctor and a recent blood level and clearance test. 

Why choose Portland Urgent Care for DOT physicals?

Portland Urgent Care can take care of most of your healthcare needs, including a DOT exam. The DOT Physical Certification Exam is easy to set up and take at our facility. Also, you can book online or by calling our friendly staff. We are ready to handle DOT physicals; all you have to do is get ready to with the appropriate paperwork. When your DOT physical is done, the results will be sent to the NRCME electronically. On-site, you will also get your medical exam card.


If you work for a company that has a "safety-sensitive" workplace, you may be asked to get a DOT physical before or while you are at work. Remember, this test comes from the Department of Transportation, as your driving can affect your safety and the safety of the public. Before being hired, federal law says that a DOT physical must be done to ensure the person is physically fit. 

Everyone who works in the public eye or in a position of power, like a commercial truck driver or an airline attendant, would have to take a test to make sure they are healthy enough to do their jobs safely.

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Written by

Dr. Mark Hosko, MD

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