The DOT physicals are special physical/medical exams required by the Department of Transportation. The exams are a must for those wishing to obtain or maintain a commercial driving license (this includes truck and bus drivers).

Even if you’ve already been advised to take one, you might not know exactly what to expect. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the DOT exam and how they affect you.

Tip #1: A drug test is an important part of DOT physicals

The test is very strict and you can see a positive on the test even if there are only very small traces of drugs in your system. For example, marijuana can show as a positive even after almost 30 days of being smoked.

The 5-Panel drug test urinalysis conducted during a DOT physical checks for the presence of five drugs in your system:

  • Amphetamines
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates (including heroin)
  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Tip #2: The urine test is not only for drugs

The urine test performed during a DOT physical tests for more than just drugs. It also checks for the presence of protein or sugar in your urine. These are important because they could indicate elevated glucose, an early sign of diabetes. They can also show whether you’re having other underlying medical issues, such as kidney problems.

Tip #3: The typical DOT card is valid for two years

However, this only applies if you clear the test properly and you have no medical conditions that could impact your driving performance. For example, being on prescription medications for high-blood pressure or diabetes triggers a restriction on your DOT card. As a result, you might be given a one-year card only and will have to come back after that to repeat the test.

There are also 3-month DOT cards available. These are considered temporary cards and are given to allow you time to get a specific condition under control. For example, if your blood sugar is too high, you might be given a 3-month card so you can see your doctor and figure out what medications you need to take to control your blood sugar.

Tip #4: There are specific guidelines regarding blood pressure measurements

You won’t be disqualified from getting your DOT card if you have high blood pressure, but you will be required to keep it under control with medical treatment.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) state that:

  • Drivers with less than 140 systolic and 90 diastolic can receive a two-year card
  • Drivers with a systolic measurement of up to 159 or a diastolic measurement of up to 99 can receive a one-year card
  • Measurements over 160/100 will receive a three-month card so he can go back to his doctor for antihypertensive drug therapy. After the three months, if the blood pressure readings have gone down, he can receive a one-year card and will be reassessed annually after that.

Tip #5: Some conditions might disqualify you from passing the DOT exam

Aside from uncontrolled diabetes and blood pressure, you might be disqualified from getting a DOT card if you suffer from poor visual acuity, certain mental disorders, epilepsy and advanced heart disease.

Failing the drug test or suffering from alcoholism are also grounds for disqualification. In addition, people with loss or impairment of limbs are unlikely to pass the test, as this would affect their driving ability.

If you are concerned about your upcoming DOT physical, give us a call. We’d be happy to answers your questions and let you know if there’s anything you can do to ensure you pass the exam and receive your card without problems.

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