How Truckers Can Pass The DOT Physicalby Jake Tully - Published: 11/13/2017
Though the perception of unhealthy truckers in the United States may be somewhat of a joke in the industry, the reality of unhealthy habits and lifestyles are anything but funny.
What is even less of a joke is when drivers must prepare for their Department of Transportation Physical exams. An unhealthy trucker is less likely to pass the exam than one who has spent time taking care of themselves, and failing to pass ultimately means a pass on a potential trucking job opportunity altogether.
Though the DOT Medical Exam may present some rigorous challenges for certain drivers, passing the exam is anything but impossible for the informed driver. With a small amount of preparation and knowledge, the mandatory physical exam should not be an obstacle in obtaining the ideal trucker job.
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What is The Purpose Of the DOT Physical?
Above all else, the main purpose of the DOT Physical is to ensure that the men and women operating in trucks across the country are healthy enough to do so and to further ensure they are not too great a liability on our roadways.
The physical exam is not meant to hurt truckers or otherwise unfairly disqualify them from participating within the industry, but due to the fact that these people are operating sophisticated and heavy machinery, they must meet a physical standard in order to hold a commercial driver’s license.
As the DOT has a primary interest in protecting the safety and livelihood of commercial drivers and non-commercial drivers alike, the government entity has laid out benchmarks alongside the FCMSA to ensure that the only candidates considered for trucking positions are those who can operate with competence and confidence.
What Can A Driver Expect During A DOT Physical?
Though the DOT Physical is not an entirely rigorous examination, it is nonetheless a test that covers several bases of driver health and competency of one's well-being.
One of the first things that a driver must provide during a physical issued by the DOT is a history of their health. This may include information about any current medications a driver is taking, any recent surgeries a driver has had or anything that is persisting in your health. It is of paramount importance to be honest in these screenings, as leaving out a condition to secure a trucker job now may leave a driver without one in the future.
After providing a history of one’s health, a medical examiner will then issue a series of basic tests, ranging from items such as checking one’s blood pressure, vision, and hearing. Also Included in this screening is a urinalysis test which checks the blood, sugar and protein in the urine as well as the detection of any drugs that may be in the system. Any abnormalities in health that may arise will be noted during this process.
After the examination, the doctor that conducts the health screening will send the DOT form to the state licensing agency that the test was conducted in. Drivers should be warned however, whether they are being tested in Florida or the Pacific Northwest, the same medical boundaries still apply.
What Do I Bring With Me To The DOT Physical?
Many drivers may be under the impression that they need only bring themselves to the DOT Physical. This may be true for some individuals, but a vast majority of drivers will need to bring more than the bare minimum with them.
If the person conducting the physical is not your primary doctor, make sure to bring records indicating health history from your doctor to the examination. Similarly, if you are faced with any current medical conditions, bring the necessary paperwork that indicates health records from your doctor(s). Certain common conditions like high blood pressure will ultimately call for some form of test results from a physician.
If a driver requires glasses to drive, one should make sure the exact pair comes along with them to the examination- there’s no benefit in “gaming” the system by trying to provide a different set of spectacles.
Lastly, though one does not need to bring the physical pills with them to an exam, make sure that any prescription medications are taken as regularly scheduled. A sudden stop in medication usage or medication usage in an irregular pattern may cause inaccurate readings of one’s medical condition.
What Are The Possible Outcomes for the Physical?
As one might expect, there are two basic outcomes that this test yields for truckers. One possible outcome (and understandably the most desirable) is that a driver is approved by a physician to drive for two years. In this scenario, a driver is deemed well enough to drive without any health conditions inhibiting them greatly enough to impact their driving.
The second major outcome that may occur during these tests is that a doctor conducting the screening may find that a driver does not meet DOT standards and therefore does not see approval to operate a commercial motor vehicle. In this instance an individual is not entirely helpless, as a potential driver may search out a second opinion by way of following the FMCSA protocol.
The third scenario, though less common than the other two, is that a driver is approved to drive, but must routinely check in and follow up with their health through monitoring of specific issues. This will occur on a case-by-case basis and will vary from individual in how frequently or to what extent health monitoring occurs.
How To Prepare for a DOT Physical
Over the years, drivers have found that many of the reasons they do not pass the physical exam can be attributed to lifestyle choices they made over the years. Even though many people find that old habits related to health die hard, not all hope is lost. If a driver has a DOT Physical exam coming up, the following tactics may help their chances of passing.
- Diet: drivers should closely and carefully monitor their diets in the weeks leading up to the exam to be as healthful as possible. This may include, but is not limited to, monitoring one’s intake of salt, fat, sugar, and preservatives. Replacing a usual habit of consuming junk food with fruits or vegetables is a great tactic to keep in good health and can help lower one’s blood pressure. Caffeine is also a stimulant that may have a negative impact on one’s health if consumed too frequently. Consider replacing your third daily cup of Joe with a tea or another non-caffeinated drink. Rethink those convenience stores you may be passing by as you truck through Texas - at the very least, opt for a quick diner meal with more nutritious fare.
- Sleep Schedule: Drivers get harped on this very frequently, but perhaps the importance it plays in a driver’s health is reason for it being brought up many times by the industry. Falling into a healthy and regular sleep schedule can be just as important as what one consumes. Fatigue and overall drowsiness are never positive health attributes for a driver, and will not help contribute to one passing their DOT Physical.
- Honesty: Drivers need to be honest with themselves in terms of whether or not they feel are they physically capable of taking on a trucking position. In determining this, a driver should not feel any resistance or ambivalence in their ability to professionally and a safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. One’s want for a job should not supersede the well-being of other motorists.
Preparation for the screening is both a physical and mental matter. While good health is paramount in determining a trucking applicant’s ability to drive, one must also consider any mental hurdles that may be present before moving forward to pursue a career.
DOT Physicals – Same Requirements, A Case By Case Screening Process
Though all drivers in the United States must take the same standardized test, a driver must also think of the potential driving scenarios that their driving skills in relation to health will be tested upon, as well. An Illinois-based trucker needs to consider whether or not they are healthy enough to truck in the snow and other cold conditions. A trucker on the West Coast must also decide whether or not the extreme temperatures of California will impact their ability to operate.
The DOT Physical is an excellent process in which the industry can bring those healthy enough to drive to the forefront of the hiring pool, but it is not merely put into place to make trucking exclusive – it is in place to make it a safe environment for all motorists on the read.
However it may seem, the onus of determining a driver’s health is not just on the back of a physician, it is also in the hands of a driver. Drivers should choose responsibility and make the final call when it comes to their ability to drive.