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Your Guide to DOT Physicals

Ensuring safety on the road is an important part of the transportation industry, which includes the regulation of physical and mental checkups for individuals who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Learn more about the requirements and how you can complete your physical here at The Iowa Clinic.

DOT Physical

Ensuring safety on the roads is an important part the transportation industry, which includes the regulation of physical and mental checkups for individuals who operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Family Medicine physician Dr. Samuel Gastineau is a FMCSA medical examiner, certified in administering DOT physicals.

What is a DOT Physical?

A DOT physical is the required medical exam mandated by the Department of Transportation for all CMV drivers to obtain and maintain their license. DOT physicals include a review of all past medical history, medications, and a complete physical examination. This may include checking things like:

  • Vision and hearing. A minimum of 20/40 acuity in each eye and a 70-degree field of vision is required for road safety.
  • Blood pressure and pulse rate. It is important to have a stable blood pressure and pulse rate and maintain a blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg.
  • Certain medical conditions. Some medical conditions may disqualify you from the ability to operate a CMV safely. These can include epilepsy, heart conditions, diabetes requiring insulin, lung conditions and more.
  • Mental and psychological stability. Ensuring mental and psychological stability is important to ensure there is no risk to anyone on the road.
  • Drug and alcohol testing. All drivers must undergo a drug and alcohol screening to test for common substance abuse, such as marijuana, amphetamines, and alcohol abuse. This also includes a urine dip test to look for sugar, protein, or blood in the urine, which is a required component of the DOT exam.

Who Needs a DOT Physical?

Anyone who drives commercial vehicles, such as large trucks and buses, are required to complete a DOT physical. This can include:

  • Driving a vehicle designed to carry more than 15 people.
  • Are paid to drive a vehicle designed to carry more than eight people.
  • Carry hazardous material in your vehicle.
  • Drive a vehicle on the interstate with a weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more.

To determine whether you need a medical card, click here.

How Often Do I Need a DOT Physical?

DOT medical physicals are how you obtain and renew your medical cards. Normal examinations grant a 2-year certificate period and require renewal every 2 years. At the time of your physical, your medical certificate will be printed out and given to you in office if you pass your medical exam.

How Should I Prepare for My Physical?

Ahead of your DOT medical physical, you can prepare by maintaining or improving your health, such as:

  • Ensuring all medications are up to date.
  • Have your eyes checked and prescription updated.
  • Avoid heavy drinking and substance use.
  • Manage your blood pressure.
  • Consider quitting smoking.

What Should I Bring to My Physical?

If you have any chronic conditions that require monitoring, it is important to bring a copy of your most recent office visit from the managing physician to confirm the condition is adequately treated and won’t prevent you from passing your medical exam. You should also bring a list of all current medications with dosages, glasses, or hearing aids if you wear them.

Common conditions requiring additional testing or notes from a managing physician can include:

  • Sleep apnea. A 90-day summary of CPAP showing 70% compliance with at least 4 hour of use on average is required.
  • Heart disease. A stress test or ECHO performed in the last 2 years showing stable heart function is required.
  • Diabetes. A recent A1C of less than 10 within the last 6 months is required. Even if you are insulin, you can now be passed if you have your doctor’s notes that you are stable on insulin without concerns of low blood pressure and have not been hospitalized due to complications from insulin.
  • Hypertension. Blood pressure needs to be 140/90 or less the day of the examination to be considered controlled. If your blood pressure is elevated, you may come back in for a recheck another day to check for a blood pressure less than 140/90.

What If I Fail My Exam?

It is very rare for someone to fail their medical exam the day of the exam. A 45-day pending can be given to any person who can’t be certified on the day of the exam, which allows time to collect any necessary paperwork or additional information from their provider. After all paperwork is collected, a recheck can be performed to receive a medical certificate.

How Much Does It Cost?

A DOT medical examination at The Iowa Clinic is $150.

I Passed My Exam, Now What?

After passing your medical exam, Dr. Gastineau submits the completed medical certificate to the FMCSA. IOWA DOT requires every driver to submit their medical certificate to them as well.

Medical certificates can be submitted to the Iowa DOT by one of the following:

  • Mail – Office of Driver Services, P.O. Box 9204, Des Moines, IA 50306.
  • Email – with an attached PDF form.
  • Fax – 515-237-3355
  • Online by clicking here.

To learn more about DOT physicals or to schedule an appointment, call 515.875.9520.

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