Every commercial driver operating in the United States today, no matter what distances they drive, need to carry with them, at all times, a valid medical certificate that indicates that they have passed the standard battery of DOT physicals. If you are going to drive commercial, you need to carry this important document, along with your license, whenever you are in the vehicle, period. There are no exceptions, so if you have not gotten it done as yet, you need to get it done before they suspend your license.
Why it is Important
The Department of Transportation, the federal agency that oversees interstate commerce, wants the assurance that all commercial drivers are actually fit enough to handle the rigors of short, long and interstate distance trucking. They have the right to insure public safety, and an unfit driver would definitely constitute a significant threat to the public. Could you imagine the chaos that would be caused by a driver having a stroke, a diabetic episode or an epileptic fit, while pilot a several ton vehicle on any state motorway?
This is why it is required for all commercial drivers, no matter what state or region, to pass a battery of DOT physicals, and maintain a good health certificate. If they cannot pass cleanly, and there are no extenuating circumstances, they cannot obtain or keep a CDL license in any state. To keep cheating to a minimum, most states have adopted the policy of showing the health certificate when obtaining the license, as well as when the driver comes back for their vehicle license plate, and again when they renew their CDL license. If there are extenuating circumstances, like the addition of a hearing aid, or prosthetic that could affect their driving, there is a waiver committee in action that can allow drivers to obtain their licenses with a limited certification.
DOT Certification Explained
If you pass all aspects of the DOT physical, and obtain the standard health certification, that certificate will be valid for at least two years. If there is a medical condition that will require a follow-up exam, like diabetes or high blood pressure, you may still be awarded a certificate, but it will be only good for a limited amount of time, usually for only three months to six months, maximum.
If there is a physical limitation found, like chronic back pain, arthritis, hearing aids, or prosthetics, a review committee will decide whether or not your current condition will prevent you from being able to do everything that a commercial driver would be required to do during the operation of the vehicle. The same will hold true if you are injured in any way, from a sprained ankle to a broken arm. In this type of situation, the worst that will happen is that your license will be suspended temporarily, pending another review within three months, or, at best, you will be issued a short-term restricted certification.
What Happens During the Testing?
The first phase of the examination is the recording of your medical history. This will cover the past five years, and the needed information revers the number of illnesses, injuries or surgeries that you have had during that time. Falsifying any of this information can get you banned from ever having another CDL license during your lifetime, they take it that seriously. Also included on that document to be filled out is a list of any medications that you take regularly, on doctor’s orders or on your own, and your habits concerning recreational drugs and alcohol.
Next up is a battery of small exams that will test your vision, hearing, blood pressure, pulse and urine. The urinalysis will check for abnormalities in proteins, white cells, red cells, nitrates, blood, and glucose levels. There is no drug testing unless the authorities believe it is warranted, and you will be notified if so. After this, all that remains is a true physical exam and a neurological reflex test. The doctor will record everything, and then make his or her recommendation as to whether you have passed your DOT physicals, and what certificate you should be issued, if any.