How DOT Exams Differ From Regular Physicals

Jan 12, 2024
How DOT Exams Differ From Regular Physicals
If you need a Department of Transportation (DOT) exam, you may think you're in for just another physical, but they're very different. Take a moment to discover how DOT exams differ from your annual physical exam.

An annual physical and a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical are similar in some ways but very different in others. If you drive a commercial vehicle, you'll need a DOT exam to ensure you're safe and healthy enough to be on the road.

You might not know what to expect from a DOT exam. However, you need to be prepared because it's a little different than your average physical.

When you require a DOT physical, you can rely on our team at Prudent Medical Providers. Our three nurse practitioners offer various exams to help you stay on top of your health and keep you safe on the road.

Who needs a DOT exam?

A DOT exam is required of anyone who drives a commercial vehicle and needs to be renewed every two years. This comprehensive physical exam ensures you're healthy enough to operate a large vehicle.

There are various reasons you may require a DOT exam, including if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You get paid to drive a vehicle that carries more than eight passengers
  • You drive a vehicle that's equipped to carry 15 or more people
  • You drive a vehicle that carries hazardous materials and has an appropriate placard
  • You drive a vehicle on the highway with a total gross weight of at least 10,000 pounds

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires DOT exams to ensure the safety of the drivers and others on the road.

The difference in a DOT exam

It's easy to expect a DOT exam to be similar to an annual physical, but it's much more involved. During a regular physical exam, your doctor asks you about any problems you've had in the past year and performs a physical exam to look for any issues.

A DOT exam, however, has a lot more steps. First, only a licensed medical practitioner can perform a DOT exam per the FMCSA guidelines. They are also only good for two years.

During a DOT exam, the examiner not only performs a very detailed physical exam but also talks to you about what medications you're currently taking and any issues with drugs or alcohol, and collects a blood and urine sample to check for any severe medical conditions.

What to expect during your exam

Preparing for your DOT exam is essential to ensure it goes smoothly and you get your medical examiner's certificate in time. For instance, you must bring a medication list and know your medical and family history.

Before the physical aspect of the exam, we talk to you about your medical history, including any surgeries you've had, current or previous medical conditions, and:

  • If you've ever struggled with drugs or alcohol
  • The medications you're taking
  • If you've ever failed a drug test
  • Any history of smoking
  • Any symptoms you're experiencing

We then perform the comprehensive physical exam portion, which starts with your height, weight, and vital signs. From there, we move on to the physical exam, where we check your:

  • Abdomen
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Arms and legs
  • Skin
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
  • Back and spine
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Joints
  • Nervous system
  • Circulatory system

We then perform a urinalysis to look for any concerns that may need further investigation. If you have sleep apnea, we advise you to have a sleep study to ensure safe driving.

If you need a DOT exam, don't hesitate to call Prudent Medical Providers today at one of our offices in Tacoma or Federal Way, Washington. You can also request a telehealth appointment on the website.