Prep for Peak Shipping Season by Ensuring your Drivers' DOT Physicals are Up to Date
In the late spring and early summer, those in the trucking industry are preparing for peak shipping season, which is generally considered to span the months of August through October1. And with the holiday season hot on its taillights, there’s no better time than now to take advantage of the relative lull and ensure your commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are up to date on their Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exams.
Let’s back up
Because commercial drivers are considered “safety-sensitive” employees – meaning their roles and responsibilities directly and significantly impact the safety of themselves and the general public2 – laws are in place to ensure commercial drivers are physically and mentally capable of carrying out their duties safely and responsibly. This is nothing new, with the Motor Carrier Act of 1935 having first granted the authority to mandate physical qualifications for commercial drivers to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) almost 90 years ago. Just a few years later, in 1939, the ICC formally published its first set of driver qualifications. Albeit somewhat elementary and subjective – with “good eyesight” and “good health” among the few requirements listed – it certainly paved the way for what was to come.3
In 1966, the ICC’s authority to establish and mandate driver qualifications and restrictions was transferred to the DOT and, in the years since a hefty and stringent overhaul of requirements in 1970 – which included the implementation of a rule requiring re-exam every two years – few significant modifications have been made.3
The who, why, and what of it all
While not an exhaustive list, individuals operating certain CMVs, vehicles designed to carry 15 or more passengers, vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds, and vehicles transporting hazardous materials are among the most common classifications of drivers who would require a DOT physical.4 Completing a DOT physical exam (sometimes referred to as a CDL physical) every two years is mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)5 as a means of identifying certain conditions or risk factors that may result in sudden, unexpected, or otherwise problematic incapacitation or impairment that could compromise public safety on the roads. Blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and pulmonary function assessments included in a DOT physical may assist not only in mitigating these work-related injury and incident risks but also in the early identification of signs or symptoms of a health condition in employees who may not visit the doctor on a regular basis, potentially providing the opportunity for earlier diagnosis, intervention, and treatment.
Along with a comprehensive review and assessment of the driver’s overall health and fitness, medical history, and emotional status, DOT exams include specific evaluations related to job functions, and certain requirements – like having a minimum visual acuity of 20/40 in each eye with or without corrective lenses – must be met in order to pass.6 And there’s evidence to show that safety restrictions and requirements, like mandated DOT exams, may be helping to curb incident rates. In 1975, shortly after the DOT revamped its driver qualification requirements, there were approximately 4,800 fatal crashes involving large buses and trucks – still a small percentage of the nearly six million vehicles registered under that classification. But in 2020, with large bus and truck registrations swelling to more than 15 million, the number of fatal crashes remained virtually unchanged at 4,998.7
Behind the wheel
For a DOT physical to be considered valid and compliant, it must be performed by a certified medical examiner (CME).8 CMEs, much like commercial drivers, are held to standards and requirements that ensure they can adequately and accurately assess a driver’s physical and psychological fitness to safely carry out their job functions. In addition to obtaining their initial certification* and recertification from the FMCSA every 10 years, CMEs must complete updated training courses once every five years. Once certified by the FMCSA, CMEs are listed in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME), available publicly for employers and employees to find a CME nearby to perform their DOT physical.9
When searching for a CME in the NRCME database, you can select a radius down to 10 miles. A list of CMEs within your chosen area, their practice or business name, contact information, and operating hours will be then provided, along with the clinician’s national registry number and certification date.
It is important to keep in mind that an expired certification may not be designated as such in the NRCME, making it essential to pay close attention to the clinician’s certification date and be sure that it is no more than 10 years in the past. For some CMEs whose certifications expire in 2023, however, an extended recertification timeline may apply due to a delay in the launch of the five-year periodic training course.10 If you are unsure about a CME’s certification status, be sure to ask whether they are currently certified to perform DOT physicals before scheduling an appointment.
At Concentra®, all of our physicians at our 540 centers nationwide are listed as registered CMEs on the NRCME, are required to maintain their certified status, and are highly knowledgeable regarding DOT regulations, allowing your drivers to receive a valid DOT physical exam at any of our locations and remain in good standing while ensuring compliance. We also offer a comprehensive range of DOT services beyond the DOT physical, like DOT drug testing, DOT policy development, and initial screening evaluations for sleep apnea., providing a convenient solution for addressing all of your DOT-related needs under one roof.
Get geared up
The last thing you or your drivers want is to be stalled by an expired DOT medical card just as volume starts to pick up. With the experience and knowledge of our clinicians and regulatory experts, Concentra can help simplify the process of completing DOT exams for you and your employees so that drivers get back on the road sooner – and safely – without disrupting your operations. In the weeks or months leading up to your busy season, take some time to evaluate the status of your employees’ CDLs and DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificates, and encourage drivers who are nearing or past their two-year re-exam date to use this time to schedule a DOT physical exam at their nearest Concentra medical center.
*Concentra offers a fully accredited FMCSA certification course for Concentra physicians and non-Concentra physicians interested in becoming a CME. Learn more about Concentra’s FMCSA certification course here.
- “2023 Rate Outlook: Will shippers catch a break?” by Brooks Bentz. Logistics Management. January 9, 2023.
- Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy & Compliance. U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). April 28, 2023.
- Physical Qualification of Drivers; Medical Examination; Certificate. Federal Register. The Daily Journal of the United States Government. October 5, 2000.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; Definition of Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV); Requirements for Operators of Small Passenger-Carrying CMVs. Federal Register. The Daily Journal of the United States Government. January 11, 2001.
- DOT Medical Exam and Commercial Motor Vehicle Certification. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). December 16, 2019.
- Examining FMCSA Vision Standard for CMV Drivers and Waiver Program. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). October 26, 2022.
- Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2020. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Last updated March 6, 2023.
- DOT Reminds Commercial Drivers that Physicals Must Now Be Performed by Certified Medical Examiners. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). May 21, 2014.
- National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). April 4, 2023.
- NRCME Training Systems Ready for FMCSA 10-year Training & Recertification Mandate. Last accessed May 17, 2023.