Have you considered becoming a professional truck driver? If so, you have probably heard of the Department of Transportation physical exam.

Sitting behind the wheel for hours-long stretches at a time can cause a severe strain on your health. Before hitting the road, employers in the logistics and transportation industry must make sure that you are not a health risk before they send you out with your cargo. This is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (part of the Department of Transportation) requires all drivers to pass the DOT Physical Exam to get their commercial driver’s license.

Don’t worry because the physical exam doesn’t require a ton of studying. It does, however, require you to be in a reasonable state of health and that scares some people. So, we’ve broken it down for you. Here’s what to expect from the DOT physical:

Who Conducts the DOT physical?

A licensed medical examiner must conduct the DOT Physical, which means a doctor of medicine (MD), doctor of osteopathy (DO), doctor of chiropractic (DC), an advanced practice nurse (APN), or a physician assistant (PA).

There are specific clinics that specialize in physicals like this, but first, check with your GP. Your general practitioner (GP) should be able to conduct the DOT Physical for you, provided they have a familiarity with the parameters of the exam.

How to Prepare

While it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle all the time, there are a few tips that can help give you the edge in your DOT Physical.

First, improve your diet for at least a week before the examination. This includes cutting back on salt, sugar, and junk food. You may also wish to avoid caffeine and definitely skip alcohol during this period. All of this can help to stabilize your blood pressure, something the examiner will be monitoring for.

Keep taking all prescribed medication. If you stop, this can cause irregularities in your physical wellbeing that could show up in the examination. Make sure that you have an adequate supply by refilling your prescription well before the exam.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, be sure that your prescription is up to date. Be sure to take your hearing aid as well, if you use one.


Can I pass the DOT physical with a hearing aid?

Yes! As long as you can hear a whisper in one ear from five feet away. If not, you’ll be asked to take an audio entry test with a hearing specialist.

Can I pass the DOT physical with bad eyesight?

Maybe! You have to be able to see at least 20/40 with both eyes. It’s ok if you wear contacts as long as you don’t have monocular vision problems. It is possible to get a waiver for poor eyesight. Confer with the doctor that does your physical.

What drugs are they testing for in my DOT physical?

Marijuana, phencyclidine, amphetamines, opiates, and cocaine. If you have a prescription that may cause a positive result, you’ll be contacted for further tests or an interview.

Does weight affect the DOT physical?

Your weight (BMI) and neck size will be measured. These do not disqualify you from passing the physical, but they might be indicators of another problem.


What to Expect

First, relax! The DOT Physical is non-invasive and should only take between 30 minutes to an hour to complete.

To begin, you will have to provide the examiner with a short medical history, including your prescribed medications. Don’t sugarcoat or gloss over any prior health issues, as this could reflect negatively on you when this lie of omission is discovered later. Be sure to bring comprehensive medical records if your GP isn’t examining you.

Your examiner will then give you a full physical exam, including checking your blood pressure and pulse, hearing, heart, lungs, and other areas of concern. They will perform a vision test to confirm that you at least have an acuity of 20/40 in each eye (don’t forget to take your prescription lenses with you).

Part of the DOT Physical includes neurological and brain screening to identify any conditions such as epilepsy or seizures. If you have have a recent history of either of these conditions, you will unfortunately not pass the DOT Physical. There can be exemptions to certain conditions, but they must be specifically applied for.

You will also be required to give a urine sample for urinalysis tests to check for underlying conditions. This will include a drug test to make sure that you do not use substances that could compromise the safety of your passengers, cargo, or others on the road (cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, THC, marijuana, and PCP).

How Often Do I Need One?

After passing the DOT physical exam, it will be valid for up to 2 years. There can be exceptions to this if the medical examiner wishes to monitor a potential condition that could cause health problems down the road.

The DOT Physical Exam is a requirement for anyone who wants to work as a truck driver. Once you have your license, you will be eligible for any number of transportation-related jobs through Spectra360! We connect talented individuals with the companies in the logistics industry that needs them. If you are looking for a contract, temp-to-hire, or direct hire position, we invite you to contact us today to learn more!

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