There are a lot of requirements for becoming a truck driver. These range from various legal requirements and regulations from the Department of Transportation (DOT), to specific requirements that companies set for hiring truck drivers. One such type of requirement is medical.
Truck driving is a profession that requires a certain amount of physical exertion and the ability to sit for long hours at a time while still maintaining concentration. Because of this, truck drivers are required to pass a medical exam in order to be qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV); once you pass this physical exam, you will receive a certificate casually known as a DOT medical card.
This naturally leads a lot of drivers to wonder about the health level required to pass the physical medical exam and whether they have any DOT medical disqualifying conditions. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the exam and what can disqualify you from a DOT physical.
What do they check during a DOT physical?
During the DOT physical, your examiner will check your physical and mental health to ensure that you can operate a commercial vehicle safely. To this end, they will check the following:
- Vitals including blood pressure
- Urine test
- Mental health
- Medical history
During this examination, drivers are required to detail any existing medical conditions and/or medications that they are taking.
What can disqualify you from a DOT physical?
Operating a commercial vehicle for days or weeks at a time is no small task, and as a result there are naturally some medical conditions and other situations (such as medication taken) that can disqualify a person from becoming a commercial truck driver. This list is extensive, so it would be impossible to include all of them here, but here are a few of the most common CDL medical disqualifications.
Before we get into the list, it’s important to note that there are some cases in which exemptions can be granted. Sometimes an exemption can be granted if both you and your medical examiner believe that you are fit to drive, despite your disqualifying condition. In these cases you will have to apply to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for an exemption and await the decision. Some CDL medical disqualifications may also be temporary, and you can return after a period of time to apply for your medical certificate once again.
Prescribed medications are not typically something that will prevent you from becoming a truck driver, except in certain cases. There is no master list of banned medications from the FMCSA, however any illegal drugs in your system will disqualify you, as well as any controlled substances or prescribed medication without a proper prescription. Anti-seizure medication and methadone are also specifically listed as disqualifying medications.
Heart attacks, chest pain or discomfort due to heart disease, reduced blood flow due to coronary insufficiency, blood clot or risks of blood clots, and similar events can disqualify you for a period of time until you receive clearance to drive again. A heart condition such as angina is not inherently medically disqualifying, provided you are taking the correct medication and the condition is stable.
Sight and Hearing Issues
At least 20/40 vision in each eye and both eyes together is required. An exemption is available if a driver is able to meet peripheral vision requirements and demonstrate that they can recognize the colors of traffic lights. Each driver must also pass a forced whisper test, and potentially an audiometry test.
Diabetes and High Blood Pressure
These are both conditions that will often require exemptions or monitoring in order to become qualified to drive a commercial vehicle.
Epilepsy or Other Similar Conditions
If you have a disorder such as epilepsy or similar that causes seizures and/or a loss of consciousness, you will likely be initially disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle across state boundaries. However, there are seizure exemptions available for those truck drivers who can show that they have their seizures under control. A similar disqualification is in place for those who experience inner ear diseases or other disorders that may cause vertigo.
Regardless of the legality in your state, or whether you have a prescription for use, any use of marijuana will disqualify you from driving a CMV.
As you can see, there are a lot of things that have the potential to disqualify you from passing your medical exam, and thus working as a professional truck driver. The biggest takeaway is to do what you can to keep yourself physically fit at all times — and free from recreational drug use — and then even when you fear you may have a disqualifying condition, you may be able to work with your doctor and the FMCSA to secure an exemption.
If you are a truck driver with a clean bill of health, a class A CDL, and at least one year’s driving experience, you may be qualified to drive for Matheson. Learn more about careers with Matheson, view all requirements to drive for us, and apply today.
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