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DOT Physical: What It Consists Of?

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Doctor Checking the Back of a Man for DOT Physical Exam.

What is a DOT Physical?

A DOT (Department of Transportation) physical is a comprehensive medical examination designed to assess the physical and mental fitness of individuals who hold or seek to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This examination is essential for ensuring the safety of both commercial drivers and the public on the road.

Who Needs a DOT Physical?

A DOT physical is mandatory for the following individuals:

Commercial Drivers: If you operate vehicles classified as commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and are subject to federal motor carrier safety regulations, you are required to undergo a DOT physical.

CDL Applicants: Those seeking to obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) for the first time or upgrade their existing CDL class must complete a DOT physical as part of the application process.

CDL Renewals and Re-certifications: Commercial drivers are typically required to renew their CDL and recertify their physical fitness every two years. This involves undergoing a new DOT physical examination.

Key Components of a DOT Physical

A DOT physical examination involves several components to assess an individual's overall health and fitness to operate commercial vehicles safely. These components include:

1. Vision Test

During the vision test, you will be evaluated for adequate vision acuity. You must have a distant vision of at least 20/40 with or without corrective lenses and a horizontal field of vision of at least 70 degrees. Color blindness may disqualify you from certain endorsements.

2. Hearing Test

The hearing test checks your ability to hear a whispered conversation from a distance of five feet. You must be able to pass this test to meet DOT standards.

3. Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Measurement

A healthcare provider will measure your blood pressure and heart rate to ensure they fall within acceptable ranges. Uncontrolled hypertension may disqualify you from obtaining or maintaining a CDL.

4. Physical Examination

A thorough physical examination is conducted to assess various aspects of your health, including:

  • Respiratory system: Assessing lung function and breathing.

  • Cardiovascular system: Checking for signs of heart disease or irregularities.

  • Abdominal area: Palpating the abdomen to detect any abnormalities or tenderness.

  • Musculoskeletal system: Evaluating muscle strength, joint flexibility, and range of motion.

  • Neurological system: Testing reflexes and coordination.

  • Dermatological conditions: Inspecting the skin for rashes, lesions, or other issues.

The goal is to identify any medical conditions or physical impairments that could affect your ability to operate a commercial vehicle safely.

5. Urinalysis

A urinalysis may be required to screen for underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease, which could impact your ability to perform your duties as a commercial driver.

6. Medical History Review

Your healthcare provider will review your medical history to identify any chronic conditions, recent surgeries, or medications that could affect your fitness to drive a commercial vehicle.

What Happens After the DOT Physical?

After completing the DOT physical examination, you will receive a medical certificate indicating whether you are medically qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. There are three possible outcomes:

Qualified: You meet all the DOT standards and are deemed medically qualified to drive a commercial vehicle. You will receive a medical certificate typically valid for two years.

Temporary Disqualification: If you have a medical condition that requires monitoring or further evaluation, you may receive a temporary disqualification until you provide additional medical information or meet certain requirements.

Disqualified: In cases where you do not meet the DOT medical standards, you will be disqualified from obtaining or maintaining a CDL until your health condition is addressed or improved.


A DOT physical is a crucial requirement for commercial drivers and CDL applicants. It ensures that those operating commercial vehicles are physically fit and meet specific health standards. The examination covers vision, hearing, blood pressure, physical fitness, and medical history. Meeting these requirements is essential for both road safety and maintaining a career in the transportation industry. If you are a commercial driver or aspiring to become one, staying informed about the DOT physical process is vital to your success in this field.


1. How frequently do I need to undergo a DOT physical?

  • Commercial drivers typically need to undergo a DOT physical every two years. However, the frequency may vary depending on individual circumstances and medical conditions. It's advisable to seek guidance from your healthcare provider for precise recommendations.

2. Can I wear corrective lenses during the vision test?

  • Yes, you can wear corrective lenses (glasses or contact lenses) during the vision test. The important criterion is that your vision acuity meets the minimum requirements, even with corrective lenses.

3. What should I do if I have a medical condition or take medications?

  • If you have a medical condition or take medications, it's essential to inform your healthcare provider during the DOT physical examination. Some medical conditions and medications may require further evaluation or documentation to determine your eligibility for a CDL.

4. Can I appeal a disqualification decision?

  • Yes, you have the right to appeal a disqualification decision. If you believe you were unfairly disqualified or if you have taken steps to address the medical condition that led to disqualification, you can follow the appeals process outlined by your state's licensing authority.

5. Is a DOT physical the same as a regular medical check-up?

  • No, a DOT physical is a specialized examination designed to assess an individual's fitness to operate commercial motor vehicles. While it includes some elements of a regular medical check-up, it has specific criteria and standards tailored to the requirements of commercial driving.

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