DOT Physical Exam: Requirements & What to Expect

DOT Physical Exam

In order to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), you must first fulfill the DOT physical requirements and obtain a medical card.  While this exam is similar to other physical exams you’ve had in the past, there are certain portions that must meet DOT guidelines.  The Medical Examiner’s role is to determine if a CMV driver meets FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) standards.  The examiner is trying to answer this question.  Can the driver safely meet the physical and mental demands of the job for the time period the card is to be issued and will any past or recent medical conditions or surgeries affect their ability to perform their job safely.

Let’s discuss what a DOT physical exam consists of, and what you can expect during the exam.


You must have a distant acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) with or without corrective lenses

*In both eyes            *In right eye            *In left eye

Contact lenses are permitted.

Color Distinction:

Check with your eye doctor if you are color blind or have problems distinguishing between the color red, green and amber used in traffic signals.  There are special contact lenses available that may be able to correct this issue.

Blood Pressure:

A driver with a BP of less than 140/90 may be medically certified to drive for a two-year period.


You must be able to hear a forced whisper from five feet away.  The use of a hearing aid is allowed so long as you can perceive the forced whisper from five feet away in one ear.


A good rule of thumb is that if a cardiovascular issue has been resolved and you have received a release from your doctor then you may obtain a medical card.  For example, if you have recently had bypass surgery you will need to be off work for at least three months.  You will need to be cleared by your cardiologist before returning to work or receiving a medical card.  If you have any cardiovascular concerns consult your doctor prior to the DOT exam.


Staying in control of your physical and mental faculties at all times on the road is a safety issue to you an the general public.  Any medication or medical condition that presents a safety risk could disqualify you from obtaining a medical card. You may be exempt if your doctor provides a release stating that the medication or condition will not affect your ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle over the road.  Check with you doctor if you have questions or concerns regarding medications or medical conditions.


You will be asked to provide a urine specimen which will be tested for

* Specific Gravity       *Protein        *Blood        *Glucose

The results will be used to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Physical Endurance:

As a driver, you will be required to sit and steer for long periods of time.  You must be able to climb in and out of the cab, tarp, coupling and uncoupling trailers, climb ladders, inspect the vehicle and cargo.  The medical examiner will consider any surgeries, deformities, or limits to range of motion that may affect your ability to perfom these duties.

If you meet all of the standards of the FMCSA, a medical certificate (card) may be issued for a 2 year period.

If periodic monitoring is required for a certain condition, the certificate may be issued for a period of 1 year, 6 months, 3 months or another limited time period.

Helpful Tip:

Smoking cigarettes, caffeine and energy drinks can cause a rise in blood pressure.  Check with you doctor if you have questions or concerns.