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What are DOT Truck Driver Physical Exams?

Truck drivers have a demanding job and it’s crucial that they’re able to do it properly. That means they need extensive training, but on top of that they have to be in good health. That’s why the Department of Transportation requires all commercially licensed drivers to get regular health checkups from certified physicians. So what exactly are these important tests?

Answer: DOT physicals are mandatory examinations to ensure that drivers operating commercial vehicles are healthy enough to do so safely.

The Rule

“A person…must not operate a commercial motor vehicle unless he or she is medically certified as physically qualified to do so.” 

49 CFR § 391.41

Who’s Required to Undergo Physicals?

All commercial drivers must get physicals at least once every 2 years to acquire or maintain their CDLs. Whether someone drives a bus, an 18-wheeler, construction equipment, or any other commercial vehicle, they should always be in good enough health to do it safely.

What Does a DOT Physical Involve?

The physical is a series of tests evaluating a commercial driver’s overall wellness, as well as an analysis of their medical history. Doctors ask drivers questions about prior surgeries, prescription medications, illicit substance use or abuse, acute or chronic symptoms, and many other topics; they also conduct a variety of tests gauging the driver’s physical state.

The purpose is to identify any condition that might render the driver unable to safely operate their vehicle, ranging from poor eyesight or hearing to diabetes or other incapacitating health problems. Physicians screen drivers carefully for signs or precursors of those and other serious conditions.

To the right is page 1 of the Medical Examination Report (MER) Form MCSA-5875, the standard paperwork physicians use when evaluating truck drivers' fitness for service. Click the image to see the report full-size and get an idea of the steps required to fully complete a DOT physical.

Page 1 of MCSA Medical Examination Report Form
Click to enlarge

How Can Truck Accident Victims Use DOT Physicals as Evidence to Make Their Case?

We’ve elaborated on this in other articles, but suffice to say a truck driver’s health history can be an important part of an accident investigation. In fact, one of the first steps we always take after a truck accident is investigating the driver’s medical records (including their DOT physicals) in search of telltale signs of poor health. Years of experience have also taught us how to spot unusual or questionable details in some of those reports, which have helped us catch more than a few drivers who shouldn’t have been approved for service.

That’s just some of many ways experienced truck accident attorneys can help people hurt by an unfit truck driver. If you or a loved one were injured in such an accident, contact Grossman Law Offices any time for a free consultation.

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