DOT Physical Exam for your CDL

A CDL physical is a requirement for all commercial drivers who drive across state lines. If you’re a truck driver who only delivers within your state and never crosses other state lines, you don’t need to pass the CDL physical exam (nor DOT physical rules). But if you drive vehicles interstate with a weight of 1,000 pounds or higher, you must obtain what is known as a Medical Examiner’s certificate.

For the sake of this article, we’ll be focusing on your DOT/CDL physical.

Preparing for a DOT Physical Examination

The purpose of the CDL physical is to ensure that all truckers are healthy enough to operate their rigs. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been on the job; you still have to undergo a DOT physical when you first get your CDL and each time you renew it.

Taking the time to prepare for your physical can help you succeed.

What Can Cause You to Fail A DOT Physical?

Failing a DOT exam isn’t the end of your career. There are times when the possibility of exceptions exist that will still allow you to drive a commercial vehicle. Exams are in place to ensure that drivers are not dangerous to others around them or themselves on the road.

A few of the reasons that drivers fail their CDL physical are:

  • Alcoholism
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Poor eyesight that is not correctable
  • Loss of limb, hand or foot
  • High blood pressure

Multiple diseases may also result in failure, including but not limited to the following conditions:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Psychiatric
  • Respiratory
  • Nerve-related

Drug users will also fail the exam. In some instances where it’s unsafe to drive a commercial vehicle when on certain medications, even a physician’s prescription may not suffice. An excellent example of this would be someone prescribed an amphetamine by their physician.

If you fail the exam, take a deep breath. You can still pass the exam, depending on the circumstances of your failure. However, you’ll want to clarify with DOT why you failed the exam so that you can take action to correct the issue.

Next, sit down with your physician to determine the necessary steps to pass the physical.

Your doctor will look over the results and then recommend treatment options that may work for you. If the reason for failing is outside of your control, you may request an exemption. The decision on whether to grant the exception is dependent on your ability to operate a large vehicle safely.

If it can be proven that your reason for failure will not adversely affect your ability to drive a commercial vehicle, the exemption is likely to be granted.

DOT Blood Pressure Requirements

If you have high blood pressure, you may not pass your exam if your blood pressure isn’t below 140/90. The key most important thing for anyone with high blood pressure is to seek treatment from a physician.

The Department of Transportation is flexible and may waive your blood pressure test if:

  • A physician writes a letter stating that you’re:
    • In treatment to lower your blood pressure
    • In a condition that is safe and stable

An annual certification may be necessary to pass the physical because high blood pressure can make you a danger on the road.

If you don’t usually have hypertension, then you may want to avoid drinking caffeine or eating foods that can elevate your blood pressure before your physical. Otherwise, you may wind up with an inaccurate reading and more complications than necessary.

Tips for Preparing for your CDL Physical

There are several things you can do to prepare for your DOT physical, including:

De-Stressing Before the Physical

Stress is common when taking a CDL physical, and for some people, it can lead to failure. One tip from drivers that pass their physical is that they take the time to de-stress. Also, if you have high blood pressure, be sure to:

  • Arrive at your physical early
  • Take the day or morning off of work
  • Avoid stressful encounters

If you’re diligent and allow for adequate time before heading to the physical, you’ll reduce your stress and hopefully your blood pressure, too.

Preparing a List of Medications and Medical Information

It’s still possible to pass the DOT physical even if you have a chronic medical condition and corrected vision if you can prove that these conditions are being treated.

To prove that you are proactively treating a medical condition or another potentially failing status:

  • Prepare a list of your current medications, AND
  • Bring thorough documentation of your medical history

The more documentation you bring, the greater your chances of passing the physical.

If you have prescription glasses or hearing aids, be sure to bring them. You’ll have to take a hearing and vision test that you must pass as part of the physical.

Get Plenty of Sleep and Stay Hydrated

Make sure that you get a good night’s rest the night before the exam. Also, drink plenty of water before your appointment, as you will be asked to provide a urine sample.

Passing a CDL physical isn’t hard for most drivers. Exceptions can be made, and you can take the exam in the future if you fail. However, there are cases when a failure is final and no amount of intervention will make a difference in the exam results.

Preparing for the CDL physical is one of the best ways to increase your risk of passing.

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