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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