Why did the FMCSA regulations change?

Driving a commercial motor vehicle means long, hard hours on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has updated the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations to better reflect the physical demands drivers face and to help them be safer on the job. The new regulations require all medical examiners performing DOT physicals to:

  • Be trained and certified in the FMCSA standards
  • Report exam results monthly to the FMCSA.

What are DOT physicals?

Federal law requires drivers of commercial motor vehicles (DMVs) to receive regular physical examinations. These exams are defined as the “Department of Transportation Medical Examinations.” DOT physicals are highly regulated for the drivers’ safety. They detect physical, mental, and emotional issues that can affect a driver’s ability to safely drive a commercial vehicle. DOT medical examiners are specially trained to understand the regulations and prevent drivers from being inappropriately disqualified.

All commercial drivers whose current medical certificate expires on or after May 21, 2014, at expiration of that certificate must be examined by a medical professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

How long is a DOT physical exam certificate valid?

A DOT physical exam is valid for up to 24 months. The medical examiner may also issue a medical examiner’s certificate for less than 24 months when it is desirable to monitor a condition, such as high blood pressure.

Physical requirements defined by the US Department of Transportation include:

  • Vision: You must have 20/40 correctable vision in each eye. Glasses or contact lenses are acceptable to correct a driver’s vision.
  • Hearing: You must perceive a forced whisper voice at 5 feet or more with or without hearing aid. Otherwise, you must undergo a formal hearing test with an audiometer and pass.
  • Blood Sugar: Your blood sugar level must be under 200 for a finger stick test or under 10% for a Hemoglobin A1C test.
    • You CANNOT be a diabetic on needle-injected insulin (See if your qualify for Federal Diabetes Exemption)
    • Diabetes controlled through diet and/or an oral medication is permitted
  • Your blood pressure must meet the following criteria
    • 140-159/90-99 for 1 year certificate
    • 160-179/100-109 for a 3 month temporary certificate at examiners discretion
    • Greater than 180/110 is disqualifying
  • * Prescription medication to control blood pressure is permitted.
  • Use of medications varies. Please see your physician, contact your local DOT office, or visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov .
  • If you have a current diagnosis of cardiac insufficiency, collapse, congestive cardiac failure or any other cardiovascular disease you will be required to provide the Medical Examiner with a stress test (needs to be performed within the last 12 months) along with a release from your cardiac physician stating that you can drive a commercial motor vehicle without restrictions.

Factors or conditions which could prevent you from obtaining the required DOT clearance include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Back injury (recent)
  • Major surgery (recent)
  • Hernia (currently)
  • Workmen’s compensation claim (recent)

Common Medical Conditions That Can Disqualify a Driver

  • History of epilepsy (seizure disorder).
  • Diabetes requiring the use of insulin (unless you have an exemption issued by the Federal government).
  • Failing to meet the minimum vision and hearing standards listed above.
    If you don’t meet the vision standards or you are using insulin for your diabetes, it is possible to apply for an exemption by going to the Federal Diabetes and Vision Exemption Program on the FMCSA website.

The use of some medications:

  • Methadone use automatically disqualifies you.
  • Use of a narcotic, amphetamine, or other habit forming drug without a prescription from a treating physician automatically disqualifies you. (driver medical requirements)
  • Loss or impairment of an arm or limb that interferes with commercial driving or tasks related to driving, unless accompanied by a Skills Performance Certificate (SPE).
  • A history of alcoholism disqualifies you.

Please bring the following to your DOT Physical:

  1. A picture ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.)
  2. Have your corrective lenses with you.
  3. Bring a list of your medications.
  4. Your doctor’s name, phone number and fax number.??
  5. Bring a compliance report if using a CPAP Machine.
  6. Special Circumstances
    • Medical clearance letter from doctor/specialist, if needed.
    • Remember the Day of your DOT Physical:
      • Please drink water before arriving for the urinalysis.

Please remember to report your new medical certificate to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles).


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