What to Expect From the DOT Physical

The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires all drivers to undergo a physical exam before they can operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). You will also need to repeat this every two years, or more frequently if you have a condition that requires monitoring. The goal of the DOT physical requirement is to ensure that all commercial drivers are physically able to operate their vehicles safely.

If you are getting ready for your first DOT physical, you may be wondering what to expect. For the most part, the process is fairly similar to a thorough exam from your regular doctor.

What to Bring To Your DOT Physical

To make sure your exam goes smoothly and you have everything you need, should bring:

  • Your driver’s license
  • For exams after your first, your current medical certificate
  • A list of all medications you take, their dosages, and contact information for the prescribing doctor(s)
  • Glasses/contacts, if you use them
  • Hearing aids, if you use them
  • Contact information for your primary care physician

If you have a medical condition, you may need additional documentation. It is best to check with the doctor ahead of time about this to be sure. In general, you will need a medical clearance letter if you have a heart condition or have recently had surgery. Drivers with diabetes will also need an A1C report from the past six months.

What a DOT Physical Includes

Vision Test

Professional drivers must have at least 20/40 vision in both eyes. This can be with or without corrective lenses, so this is why it’s important to bring glasses/contacts if you wear them. The vision portion of the DOT physical also tests your peripheral vision.

Hearing Test

The hearing portion of the exam includes a “whisper test.” This is to ensure you can hear a forced whisper from a distance of 5 feet. If you use hearing aids, you can use them for this. In the event you do not pass this whisper test, the examiner will refer you for follow-up testing.

Blood Pressure/Pulse

The doctor will take your blood pressure and pulse rate to ensure they are within a normal range.

Physical Exam

The physician will complete a thorough physical exam. They will check for a variety of different health issues.

The doctor will cover:

  • General appearance, including weight and any signs of alcoholism/drug use
  • Eyes (note that this is different from the vision test and will instead look for physical symptoms involving your eyes, such as cataracts)
  • Ears (note that this is different from the hearing test and will instead look for physical symptoms involving your ears, such as a perforated ear drum)
  • Mouth and throat
  • Heart
  • Chest/lungs
  • Abdomen
  • Veins
  • Checking for hernias
  • Extremities
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Neurological concerns


A urinalysis will test for any underlying conditions, such as diabetes. In some cases, DOT-required drug testing occurs at the same time. In other situations, this may be a separate test.

DOT Physical Forms

Once the exam is complete, there are a variety of forms the doctor will need to complete. You will receive a medical examiner’s certificate if you pass and will need to keep this on file. The trucking company you are working for will also receive documentation showing you passed the physical.

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Trip Planning for Truckers

With modern technology, finding the route from one place to another has never been easier. However, for professional truck drivers, this process is a bit more complicated than the average person trying to get to their destination. There are some roads you can’t take in a semi-truck, you need to plan for parking, and, of course, you want to make sure you arrive on time for your delivery.

Trip planning is an essential skill for a trucker to develop. It allows you to map out your route ahead of time and can reduce your stress on the road. It also helps you get miles more efficiently, which can increase your pay and help you build a reputation as a reliable driver.

Here are some tips for trip planning:

Use a Truckers Road Atlas or App

A GPS system can be helpful, but it may not give you all of the information you need. A road atlas for truckers includes locations of rest stops, restricted roads, and more.

There are also applications that serve the same purpose. You may want to invest in one of these as well. However, many old-school truckers swear by a printed road atlas. The apps are great for quick reference, but a physical atlas won’t be affected if you don’t have internet access or run out of power.

On a related note, write down your trip plan, basic directions, and locations of essential services. Keep this in an easily accessible place in your truck. This way, you’ll be able to get the information you need quickly if you do end up in an area without service.

Plan Around Hours of Service Requirements

Hours of service (HOS) regulations determine how much time you can spend driving before you need to rest. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces these rules and it’s important that you are familiar with and follow them.

Trip planning is a great way to make sure you stay compliant with HOS. Budget enough time so that you’ll still be under the maximum number of driving hours even if there are unexpected delays.

Have One or More Backups

Sometimes the truck stop you initially planned to stop at for the night will be full. If you don’t have a backup plan, this can be a stressful experience. It still isn’t fun either way, but having another option makes it easier to change course and find a new place to park without going over your HOS limit.

Keep Your Dispatcher Updated

A dispatcher acts as the go-between for trucking companies and their drivers. These individuals work to ensure freight arrives on time and is undamaged. If there are any significant changes to your route or you are going to be early/late to an appointment, you should contact your dispatcher.

For one, this helps ensure the customer is up-to-date on when you are going to arrive. It also ensures your dispatcher knows when you will be available for another load, which can help you avoid downtime.

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