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DOT Physicals: Vision Requirements for the Eye Exam
10 mins read

The DOT physical eye test must be passed to ensure the safe operation of your company's vehicles and maintain your DOT compliance.

Over 12 million people over 40 in the US have vision impairment, so it’s certainly not an uncommon issue to come up in a DOT physical.

The DOT (Department of Transportation) physical is designed to ensure any driver of a large commercial vehicle (CMV) weighing over 10,000 lbs is healthy enough to safely operate the vehicle. If you’ve recently found out that your vision has deteriorated, or if you are preparing for your first DOT physical, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the DOT vision requirements so you can walk into your physical feeling confident about your ability to pass and get your medical card.  

If you’re not sure what to expect from your DOT physical exam, make sure you read our overview here, but to find out about what the eye exam entails, read on. 

What Eye Chart is Used for the DOT Physical?

The DOT physical eye chart is the Snellen eye chart, which can be found in any doctor’s office or optician’s office. You stand or sit 10 feet away from the chart and are asked to read the lines. Alternatively, the Titmus Vision Tester may be used, which is a small device that measures vision, though this is rare. 

What are the Vision Requirements for a DOT Physical?

To pass the DOT physical, you need to have 20/40 vision in each eye with or without glasses, and a field of vision of at least 70 degrees in each eye. You also need to have the ability to recognize different colors of traffic lights and signals that show red, green, and amber.  

If you require glasses to correct your vision to this level, you must wear them at all times while driving, and this will be noted on your certificate saying “Qualified only if wearing corrective lenses.” If you choose to use contact lenses, this is also permissible, provided you are used to wearing and using them. The use of telescopic lenses is not acceptable for driving CMVs. 

You can apply for the Federal vision exemption if you do not meet the Federal vision standard, provided you meet all other physical standards. Click here to find out more 

What is the DOT Eye Test for?  

The DOT eye test is designed to ensure you have sufficient natural vision or sufficient corrected vision to allow you to safely operate a CMV. It tests for your distance vision, peripheral vision, and color blindness.  

Should I Wear My Glasses or Contact Lenses for the DOT Vision Test?

If you normally wear your glasses or contact lenses for most of the day, then it’s a good idea to go to your physical wearing them as normal. You can then tell the Medical Examiner that you wear them all the time, and you can tell them about your quality of vision. They will likely allow you to complete the vision test wearing your glasses or contact lenses.  

What Does Your Eyesight Have to Be to Pass a DOT Physical?

To pass the DOT physical eye test, your eyesight needs to be at least 20/40 on the Snellen eye chart, with or without corrective eyewear in each eye, and both eyes. Your peripheral vision needs to be 70 degrees or better in both eyes.  

Can I Pass the DOT Physical Eye Exam with Monocular Vision?

You cannot pass the DOT physical eye exam with monocular vision, but if you pass the physical in all other aspects, then you can apply for a Federal Vision Exemption. To be applicable for the Federal Vision Exemption, you need to have at least 20/40 vision in your good eye, and 70 degrees peripheral vision in that eye too.  

Can I Pass the DOT Physical if I’ve Had Laser Eye Surgery?

If you’ve had laser eye surgery, then you should have an extremely good quality of vision and won’t have any problems passing the eye test.  

What Happens if You Fail the DOT Eye Exam?

If you fail the DOT physical eye exam but pass all other aspects of the exam, you can apply for Federal Vision Exemption. Your Medical Examiner may refer you to have your vision tested by a specialist to determine if you are safe to operate CMVs or they may recommend you apply for the Federal Vision Exemption. Make sure your Medical Examiner continues to complete your physical so you can apply for the exemption.  

What Does the DOT Physical Eye Exam Involve?

Your Medical Examiner will ask you about any changes to your vision, ability to see in the dark, and other changes to your eye health. If you have experienced any changes, they may inquire about how those issues are being treated or kept under control. They will then examine your eyes to look for abnormalities and any other issues that may disrupt your vision or cause problems in the future if it goes unchecked.  

Once the physical examination is over, your Medical Examiner will test your distant visual acuity in each eye, and your distant binocular vision acuity. You must score 20/40 for all 3. This is usually done with a Snellen eye chart but is sometimes used with a Titmus screening instrument.  

Next, they will test your peripheral vision. Your peripheral vision needs to be at least 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian in each eye. This is usually tested using the confrontational method, which is simply where you look at the Medical Examiner’s nose and are asked to tell them how many fingers they’re holding up in your peripheral. Alternatively, the Titmus device will be used.  

Finally, they’ll check your ability to identify different colors to ensure you can distinguish between red, amber, and green.  

Should I Get an Eye Test Before My DOT Physical?

Passing your DOT physical eye test isn’t something you need to worry about, provided you are looking after your eye health and vision. If you are worried that your vision has deteriorated or may not be good enough to pass the DOT physical eye test, it may be a good idea to get an eye test before your DOT physical so you can have the correct glasses or contact lenses that will allow you to pass the physical. 

The DOT physical eye exam does not need to be stressful, and if you look after your eye health and wear corrective eyewear, you shouldn’t have a problem passing the eye test.

If you are concerned, consider getting an eye test before your DOT physical so you know where you stand, and won’t have any avoidable surprises. The last thing you want is to go to the physical, find out you need corrective eyewear, and have to retake the physical to pass. If you have any other concerns about what you need to pass, you can find all of our DOT physical articles here 

Schedule Your DOT Physical Exam with Foley


Links to Related Articles in This Series:

The DOT Physical: Everything You Need to Know 

DOT Physicals: Can Chiropractors and Other Doctors do DOT Physicals?

DOT Physicals: Can You Pass with a High BMI or While Overweight? 

DOT Physicals: Can I Get a DOT Physical in Any State? 

DOT Physicals: Can You Pass with a Hernia? 

DOT Physicals: Will I Pass with Diabetes? 

DOT Physical Blood Pressure: Requirements & Tips for Passing 

DOT Physicals: Can I Pass With Sleep Apnea? 

DOT Physicals: What if I have a Medical Condition? 

DOT Physicals: Do They Include a Drug Test? 

How to Prepare for Your DOT Physical? 

DOT Physicals: What Happens When You Fail? 

Fail a DOT Physical? You Have a Right to a Second Opinion 

DOT Physicals: Understanding Medical Variances 

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