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What to Expect During a DOT Physical

Signs of high blood pressure

Commercial drivers have an important responsibility to safely transport people or products across the United States. When you think about travel and transportation safety, many people think about issues related to vehicle maintenance first, but perhaps the most important part of the equation is the “maintenance” and health of the vehicle’s driver.

In the United States, nearly 10 percent of the workers are employed in transportation and transportation-related industries. A vast majority of those workers drive for a living. Specifically, 3.6 million people are commercial drivers, some of who criss-cross the country, logging more than 100,000 miles each year.

The federal government requires that these commercial drivers pass a Department of Transportation or DOT physical to screen for health issues that may prohibit them from safely operating a commercial vehicle. Several members of our medical team at Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic are certified DOT medical examiners listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry.

In this blog, our highly experienced providers share with you what to expect during a typical DOT physical.

No prep required

Unlike some other medical tests or examinations, you don’t have to worry about any complicated or messy preps going into a DOT physical. You will, however, need to bring a few documents with you for background information and to help create a more complete picture of your health. Items include a copy of your medical history as well as a list of prescription medications you take. 

Don’t forget that if you wear corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses or use hearing aids, you should bring them along for the physical. If you have issues with your heart or other health complications like sleep apnea, epilepsy or diabetes, we recommend bringing in a letter from your specialist documenting your condition as it relates to driving a commercial vehicle. If you are not sure whether your particular health condition warrants a letter, ask our staff when you book your appointment.

Comprehensive physical examination

The DOT physical is similar to an annual physical, but it’s more comprehensive. The goal of this comprehensive assessment is to look for any abnormalities or conditions that would limit or impair the patient’s ability to safely drive a truck or bus. 

Physical endurance and physical activities like climbing ladders, steps and simply getting in and out of your cab as well as inspecting cargo are all part of the typical day as a commercial driver. You need to be in top shape for these physical and mental demands and more. 

During a DOT physical the provider performs blood pressure and heart rate screenings as well as checks your reflexes and does a thorough examination of your lungs, and chest, spine, and vascular and neurological functions.

Vision and hearing screenings plus lab test

Because seeing and hearing clearly is a crucial part of safely operating any vehicle, a DOT physical includes a complete eye examination and hearing test. The vision test will cover visual acuity, peripheral vision, as well as the ability to detect different colors. 

The hearing test examines how well you detect sounds and tones from different distances. Keep in mind that color blindness issues and wearing a hearing aid will not necessarily keep you from passing the DOT physical. 

Lastly, a laboratory test, usually a urinalysis will be conducted as part of the DOT physical to test for drug or alcohol use, and in some cases, glucose levels for screening for diabetes. 

If you’re embarking on a career as a commercial driver or you’re an existing driver and it’s time for your next DOT physical, contact the board-certified physicians and medical team at Internal Medicine & Pediatric Clinic in New Albany, Mississippi. Request an appointment online or call today

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