Gianni Evangelisti By: Gianni Evangelisti
What is a DOT Physical Exam

To operate a commercial vehicle and earn your CDL you will need to take and pass the Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam.

This physical exam will ensure that you are physically, mentally, and emotionally fit to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires this for all CDL holders.

Summary: Learn everything you need to know about the DOT physical exam. If you still need to study for your CDL, use our free CDL practice exams.

If you are planning on operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), you will need to complete a DOT physical. This includes all CDL classes:

  1. CDL Class A
  2. CDL Class B
  3. CDL Class C

You will be asked some questions about your medical history that could include:

  • Past surgeries
  • Current medication
  • Previous health problems
  • Tobacco, alcohol, or drug use
  • Any issues you may be currently having

In addition to your medical history, you will also have a hands-on examination. The hands-on portion will evaluate the following:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Blood pressure 
  • Heart
  • Lungs and chest
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Abdomen
  • Back
  • Extremities and joints
  • Nervous system
  • Circulatory system

This exam is meant to serve as a classic physical exam. While there are some aspects that may differ from your normal physical exam, this is what you should expect.

In addition to the above, you will also have a urinalysis. This will check your protein, blood, sugar, and other things to see if you have any other medical problems. Your examiner may order other tests if they think it is necessary.

If you are curious about what other steps need to be taken to get your CDL, view our complete guide on how to get a CDL.

You will not be tested for drugs on the DOT physical exam. You will have to give urine as part of the urinalysis, but this is used to screen for health problems and not drugs.

If your company does require a pre-employment drug test, they may request that you have your drug screening done during this exam.

You can get a DOT physical by any health care professional who is certified by the FMCSA. Some examples of certified individuals would include:

  • Doctors (MD or DO)
  • Physician Assistant (PA)
  • Chiropractor Doctor (DC)
  • Advanced Practice Nurses (APN)

Find an approved health care professional with this tool from the FMCSA.

Any condition that interferes with your ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle will disqualify you. Some conditions could include:

  • Severe vision loss
  • Severe hearing loss
  • Various heart conditions
  • Epilepsy
  • Kidney disease
  • Use of illegal substances

The medical examiner will have the final say. If they think a condition you have makes you unfit to operate a commercial motor vehicle, you will not pass your DOT physical.

You should not have to do much to prepare for this exam. This should be treated like your annual physical exam that you get at the doctor’s office.

Some things you should have or keep in mind include:

  • List of medications you take
  • List of doctors you use
  • Have your glasses, contacts, or hearing aids with you on the day of your exam
  • If you have had any previous medical conditions or emergencies (heart issues, strokes, seizures, etc..), have a letter from your doctor explaining that you are fit to drive.

If you are also looking to prepare for the CDL exam, use our CDL practice test.

A DOT physical exam is good for 24 months according to the FMCSA. After 24 months, you will need to get another exam.

Your medical examiner may issue a medical examiner’s certificate which would be good for less than 24 months. This would be issued if the examiner wants to monitor a condition.

You may be able to apply for an exemption from this physical exam if you fall under one of the following categories:

  1. Have Diabetes
  2. Have Vision Issues
  3. Have Hearing Issues
  4. Have Seizures

You can find more information and the waivers for these categories by following this link.