DOT Physicals: What It Entails, Who Needs It, and More

The Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination is a requirement for individuals who wish to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the United States. This medical examination ensures that drivers are physically capable of handling the demands of running a CMV safely and efficiently.

Today, we will discuss what a DOT physical entails, who needs one, and the various components of the examination:

Who Needs a DOT Physical?

A DOT physical is required for individuals who operate vehicles that:

  • Have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Are designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver.
  • Are used to transport hazardous materials in quantities that require placarding.

In addition, some states may require DOT physicals for drivers of other types of vehicles, such as school buses or taxis. It is important to check the requirements in your specific state.

What Does a DOT Physical Consist Of?

A DOT physical examination is conducted by a licensed medical examiner (ME) listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry. The physical can be broken down into several components, including:

1. Health History Questionnaire

The ME will ask you about your medical history, including any past surgeries, hospitalizations, medications, and chronic conditions. This is to identify any potential health issues that may interfere with your ability to safely operate a CMV.

2. Vital Signs Assessment

The ME will check your vital signs, including your blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate, to ensure they are within normal limits.

3. Vision Test

To pass the vision test, you must have at least 20/40 vision in each eye, with or without corrective lenses, and a horizontal field of vision of at least 70 degrees in each eye.

4. Hearing Test

The hearing test requires you to be able to perceive a forced whisper at a distance of five feet or less, with or without the use of a hearing aid.

5. Physical Examination

The ME will perform a comprehensive physical examination to assess your general health and identify any medical issues that may impact your ability to drive safely. This includes an examination of your head, neck, extremities, spine, joints, heart, lungs, abdomen, and nervous system.

6. Urinalysis

A urinalysis is used to screen for the presence of sugar, protein, or blood in your urine, which could indicate an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or kidney disease.

7. Additional Tests

Depending on your medical history and the findings of the physical examination, the ME may order further tests, such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) or blood tests, to investigate potential health concerns.

What Happens After the DOT Physical?

If you pass the DOT physical examination, the ME will provide you with a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), which is valid for up to 24 months. Some drivers with certain medical conditions may be required to undergo more frequent examinations or provide additional documentation to maintain their certification.

If the ME determines that you are not physically qualified to operate a CMV, they will provide you with a report detailing the reasons for the disqualification. You may have the opportunity to address any medical issues and retake the examination at a later date.


All in all, the DOT physical examination is a crucial requirement for commercial drivers in the United States to ensure the safety of all road users. By understanding the components of the DOT physical and addressing any potential health concerns, you can maintain your certification and continue to drive safely on the nation’s highways.

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