The DOT physical is an official government-issued exam that certifies a commercial driver is fit to perform the duties of their job. The physical was created by the Department of Transportation to keep truck drivers safe, as well as other people on the road. The best case scenario for every commercial driver is that they pass their DOT physical, receive their certification from the medical examiner and return to pass the test again every two years.
Unfortunately, sometimes drivers do fail their DOT physical. For a variety of reasons, medical examiners may determine that you do not have the required fitness to complete your job safely. If this happens to you, don’t worry. You have options. Let’s explore what you can do next.
Reasons Drivers Fail a DOT Physical
The DOT physical covers all areas of your basic health, but there are certain areas that you should pay particular attention to in order to maintain your certification. While you don’t have to be the picture of perfect health in order to pass, you do need to make sure you have relatively good health in all these areas in order to pass.
Obviously, if you can’t see well, there’s no reason why you should be on the road, much less driving a commercial vehicle. You are permitted to wear your glasses during your DOT physical, however, so you aren’t required to have perfect eyesight to pass your test. If you wear glasses and you do fail the vision section of your DOT physical, it’s most likely because your prescription is outdated. Your medical examiner will refer you to a vision specialist to get a more accurate prescription before you take the test again.
Statcare offers the required vision test to any commercial drivers who need to pass their DOT physical. Don’t worry about traveling to a different location or waiting weeks to get a new appointment. We’ll take care of everything while you’re at our locations to make your exam process quick and convenient for you. With the correct prescription glasses, you’ll be able to retake the DOT physical with more successful results.
Similarly to the vision test, you will be required to take a hearing test, but you don’t have to rely strictly on your natural hearing. If you have a hearing aid, you are free to use it during the DOT physical. During the test, the medical examiner will check to see whether you are able to perceive a forced whisper from five feet away. Drivers who can’t hear the whisper will be given an Audiometry Test at no extra charge. If the audiometry discovers a hearing loss, drivers will be forced to comply with regulations and take additional hearing tests before they can pass their DOT physical. And just like with vision tests, Statcare staff will guide you to an Audiologist for the hearing section of your DOT physical. Once that is completed successfully, Statcare staff can generally take care of you the same day so that you’re back to work as soon as possible.
During the DOT physical, the certified medical examiner will also look into your heart health, diabetes, sleep apnea and other brain conditions like epilepsy or strokes. These conditions require more than the use of a simple accessory to improve. If you have any of these conditions, you may be at risk of failing your DOT physical.
For example, if you have diabetes and find that on the day of your DOT physical, you’re having a particularly difficult time getting your blood sugar levels under control, your medical examiner could be forced to fail you. If you have diabetes that isn’t well controlled, they will likely present you with a short-term certification so that you can take a couple weeks to get your diabetes under better control. Use this time to visit specialists, talk to your doctor and implement healthier choices. Once you feel ready, come back into your local Statcare location and one of our staff will test you again.
The same scenario is true for heart conditions, weight problems, and other neurological issues. If you don’t have a good handle on controlling the symptoms of each condition, your medical examiner may need to fail you for the exam. Unfortunately, some cases may be too severe and our staff won’t be able to issue you a short-term medical certification. Depending on your specific situation, your medical examiner may be able to give you time to get a doctor’s note, new medication or improve your overall health so that you can keep your job and get back on the road as soon as possible.
Short-Term Medical Certification
Short-term medical certifications are exactly what they sound like. Certified medical examiners give them to commercial drivers who could not pass their DOT physical but will likely be able to if given some extra time. Most short-term medical certifications are valid for three months and you are only allowed to have one short-term medical certification at a time.
A normal medical certification is valid for 24 months, but if you are issued a short-term medical certification, you are required to get a DOT physical every year. It might sound like a hassle now, but remember, the goal of the DOT physical is to keep you safe while you’re on the road. A yearly checkup ensures that all of your current medical conditions remain controlled and any future conditions can be detected and treated early.
If you are issued a short-term medical certification and cannot prove to your medical examiner that you are fit to perform the duties of your job after three months, you will fail the DOT physical and your commercial driving license will become invalid. To avoid a revoked license (and a loss of your job) make sure that you put your health first. Those who are given the extra time to get their medical condition under control should use it wisely. Don’t wait until the last two weeks to make changes. Implement new, healthier habits immediately so you can stay on the road.
Getting a Second Opinion After Failing the DOT Physical
No medical examiner wants you to fail the DOT physical. We all understand how important your job is to you. We also understand that your safety and the safety of others is at stake if we don’t adhere to the strict standards set by the Department of Transportation.
Because the DOT physical is a standardized medical exam, each medical examiner should arrive at the same conclusion. No matter what location you take the test, what time of day it is or your relationship to that doctor, the results should be the same. However, the Department of Transportation does allow for drivers to get a second opinion if they think something went wrong during their exam that cause them to fail their DOT physical. All pass or fail results are submitted into a federal database by the DOT medical examiners.
We don’t encourage you to “shop” around for a more lenient medical examiner, however. You likely won’t find one. Statcare doctors are especially concerned with a fair, quality exam. Not only do we want you to stay safe while on the road, we’re also doing our part to keep our neighborhood streets and highways safe, too.
Tips to Avoid Failing the DOT Physical
The best way to avoid failing a DOT physical is to take care of your health. Listen to your doctor’s advice and make the healthy choices we all know we should be making. That may include eating right, stretching after driving long distances, and taking a break during a long haul to get your heart rate up. You don’t have to be in perfect health to pass a DOT physical, but it never hurts to stay on top of your health as much as possible.
In addition to keeping an eye on your general health, if you have specific medical concerns, always be transparent during your DOT physical exam. Make sure that you arrive at your appointment with all of your necessary paperwork. If you have a note from your primary care doctor, or a specialist, regarding your current condition that explains why it will not prevent you from completing your daily work tasks, bring it to your appointment. Give your medical examiner all the information about your health and fitness upfront so that they have no reason to fail you.
You’re also welcome to come into any Statcare location to talk to one of our doctors on staff about any medical concern you’re having before your DOT physical. If you notice that you’re experiencing a change in your health, before or after the exam, we encourage you to stop by our urgent care. Let our trained medical staff determine what might be wrong and the ways to treat you. Don’t feel like you have to wait until your next DOT physical to take control of your health. Our Statcare doctors are always ready and willing to help you.