Aside from skill performance evaluation, you need a CDL medical card to qualify to drive and operate a commercial motor vehicle. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, qualified drivers can help prevent CMV–related fatalities and injuries.
However, some commercial trucking drivers fail their DOT physicals. A medical examiner may determine that you aren’t fit to do your job safely. If you’re in a similar situation, there’s no reason to be uneasy. There are practical options you can consider.
DOT–disqualifying medical conditions: passing a CDL physical
A DOT physical covers all areas of your basic health. Although you don’t have to be in perfect shape to get a CDL certificate, you have to be healthy enough to drive a vehicle safely. Epilepsy is a common medically disqualifying conditions that may prevent a truck driver from acquiring a DOT medical card.
During the DOT physical, the certified medical examiner will check if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, weight problems, or brain conditions like epilepsy or stroke. These conditions may not be easy to treat or improve. If you have any of these conditions, you might be at risk of failing your DOT physical.
If you have diabetes, you could still get a short-term certification that gives you a couple of weeks to get your blood sugar level under control. Use this time to talk to your doctor, take medications, and make healthier choices. Once you feel ready, come back to your local urgent care for another DOT physical exam.
If you can’t see well, you aren’t qualified to operate or drive a CMV or commercial motor vehicle without eyeglasses or contact lenses. You can wear your glasses or contacts during the DOT physical examination.
If you wear glasses but fail the vision exam of your DOT physical, your prescription is probably outdated. Your medical examiner will refer you to a vision specialist. When you have the correct prescription glasses, you can retake the DOT physical exam.
Similar to the vision test, you don’t have to rely on your natural hearing to drive a CMV. If you have a hearing aid, you’re free to use it during the DOT physical.
During the test, the medical examiner will check to see whether you can hear a forced whisper from five feet away. CDL drivers who are unable to hear the whisper will undergo an audiometry test at no extra charge.
If you have hearing loss, you’ll need to take additional hearing tests to pass the DOT physical.
Short-term medical certification
Certified medical examiners give short-term medical certificates to commercial drivers who didn’t pass their DOT physicals. The certificate gives you extra time to get certain medical conditions under control.
Most short-term medical certifications are valid for three months. In this time frame, you have to do everything you can to be fit to perform the duties of a truck-driving job. You’re only allowed to have one short-term medical certification at a time.
Getting a second opinion after failing the DOT physical
The DOT physical is a standardized medical exam. Every medical examiner should arrive at the same conclusion, no matter where you took the test, what time of day it was, or how your relationship with the doctor is.
The Department of Transportation allows drivers to get a second opinion if they think something went wrong during their exam. They can consult a different doctor if they think their medical disqualifications weren’t evaluated correctly.
Tips to pass the DOT physical
The best way to avoid failing a DOT physical is to take care of your health. Listen to your doctor’s advice and make healthy choices. Eat right, stretch after driving a CMV for long distances, and take a break during a long haul to help get your heart rate up.
Arrive at your appointment on time. Bring all necessary paperwork and be honest about your medical history. If you have a note from your primary care doctor or specialist regarding your current condition, bring it to your appointment as well.
If you notice that you’re experiencing a change in your health, before or after the exam, we encourage you to stop by an urgent care for a quick checkup. If you have specific medical concerns, bring them up during your consultation.
After passing your DOT physical and getting your CDL card, it’s important to maintain healthy habits to keep yourself in good shape always. Not only are you saving your life but you’re also saving the lives of those on the same road you’re on when you’re driving.