DOT Physical Exam Your Best Insurance

Michelle Hopkins

Commercial drivers of vehicles over 10,000 pounds operating in interstate commerce and employees performing safety-sensitive job functions are required to have a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical regularly. It’s a good idea to keep up-to-date on all DOT requirements for commercial drivers.

To be valid, a DOT physical exam must be performed by a certified medical examiner, who is listed in the national registry of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Among the medical professionals who may be authorized to perform DOT physical exams are:

  • Doctors of medicine
  • Doctors of osteopathy
  • Doctors of chiropractic
  • Physicians assistants
  • Advanced practice nurses

Your Best Insurance

It takes more than luck to maintain a commercial driving record free of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. But it’s well worth your time because the data and trends for accidents are dire. In 2016, there were 475,000 large vehicle crashes and 4,317 fatal crashes. The economic cost was $242 billion, and total comprehensive costs were $836 billion.

From 2016 to 2017, the number of large trucks and buses involved in fatal crashes increased by nine percent, but still below a historic peak in 2005. A business with a two percent profit margin that experiences a $200,000 accident will need to earn $10 million in additional revenue to make up the cost. The value of making sure your commercial drivers are in good physical condition is unmistakable.

What the DOT Physical Exam Covers

Commercial drivers who maintain a generally healthy lifestyle – to the extent possible with long shifts and limited healthy food choices – need not feel anxious about the DOT physical, which is not so different from any physical exam. Below is a list of what a DOT physical exam includes:

  • A medical history of the driver
  • Assessment of vision, hearing, blood pressure, and pulse rate
  • A general exam and assessment of overall physical ability, including:
    • Ears
    • Eyes
    • Mouth and throat
    • Heart
    • Lungs
    • Brain and nervous system
    • Musculoskeletal system
  • Urinalysis test to look for indications of underlying medical conditions, such as new onset diabetes mellitus or uncontrolled diabetes, both of which need additional follow-up.
  • Medical examiner will ask for a complete listing of medication and their dosages.
  • A driver who uses glasses, contacts, or a hearing aid should bring those devices to the exam.

DOT Exam Makes Hard Road Better

The feel of the open road and the valuable contribution commercial transportation makes to the nation’s economy are quintessential rewards. But it’s also a physical demanding life. In 2015, a large commercial truck driver health assessment was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It showed shortened life expectancy for commercial drivers – nearly 18 years shorter, in fact, than the average American.

This is due, in part, to the prevalence of adverse health conditions among commercial drivers – conditions known to shorten the lifespan of any person. Prevalence among truck drivers is shown in parentheses.

  • Diabetes mellitus (9 percent). Read about recent changes in regulations.
  • Body mass index over 35 (30 and above is considered obese) (31.1 percent)
  • Hypertension (32.8 percent)

Doing all you can to keep your commercial drivers fit and healthy is good for their vitality and longevity and good for business. This includes regular, compliant DOT physical exams.

A Word About Drug and Alcohol Testing

Employees in certain jobs and performing safety-sensitive job functions are required to have drug and alcohol testing. These jobs include pilots, truck drivers, subway operators, ship captains, pipeline controllers, airline mechanics, locomotive engineers, and bus drivers.

States and governing DOT agencies may have additional requirements, so turn to an expert  to help maintain compliance. Employers are encouraged to establish drug and alcohol testing programs, but these programs must comply with all relevant DOT and other regulations.

Drug and alcohol tests fulfill safety needs in a variety of situations:

  • Pre-placement
  • Random screening
  • Reasonable suspicion/reasonable cause
  • Post-accident
  • Return to work/duty
  • Follow-up tests

A Final Word

DOT physical exams need not take a chunk of time out of your schedule. Prepare your drivers by advising them to bring the appropriate documents or items, including:

  • Eyeglasses, contacts, or hearing aids, if applicable
  • A list of current medications, dosages, and prescribing physician(s)
  • For drivers with diabetes, read about requirements here
  • Call your nearby Concentra if you have specific concerns

Concentra medical centers provide DOT exams efficiently so you can get back on the road.