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DOT Physicals: What if I Have a Medical Condition?
Mariah Barr
6 mins read
DOT Physicals: What if I Have a Medical Condition?

You can still pass a DOT physical and legally operate a commercial vehicle, even if you have been diagnosed with a health condition.

Driving a commercial motor vehicle can be a physically demanding job. It not only requires long hours behind the wheel but also the ability to perform truck inspections, secure loads, and make adjustments to freight that may have shifted during transport.

To ensure drivers can handle the demands of the job, all DOT-regulated drivers who operate a vehicle that weighs at least 10,000 pounds (GVWR/GCWR) are required to have a DOT physical once every two years. These physical exams are conducted by a certified medical examiner who reviews the driver’s medical history, discusses any medications they take, and performs a general physical exam to check for potential issues with the person’s eyes, heart, lungs, abdomen, spine, and other body systems. Read the full overview of the DOT Physical exam here.

Finally, A Better Way to Manage DOT Physicals 

If the exam goes well, the examiner will issue a DOT medical card that is good for the next two years. In some cases, however, medical conditions are identified during the physical exam that disqualifies a driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle — or require more frequent monitoring.

When a Medical Condition is Found During a DOT Physical: Four Things to Know

The Medical Examiner Will Determine Whether You’re Qualified to Drive

If a medical condition is identified during your DOT physical, the examiner has a decision to make: Is the condition serious enough to prevent you from resuming your driving duties, or does it simply require the right treatment?

If it’s the latter, your medical examiner should discuss possible treatment options with you so that you can reverse or control the underlying issue and stay on the road.

A Driver Disqualification May be Temporary

Depending on the severity of your condition, the medical examiner might temporarily disqualify you from driving for a period of time. In this case, a reexamination would be required (perhaps in a few months) before a medical card could be issued.

You Might Need to Apply for a Medical Exemption

The FMCSA has identified certain conditions that disqualify drivers from operating CMVs. These include hypertension, respiratory dysfunction, diabetes, vision impairment, epilepsy, and mental disorders. If you have one of these conditions, and both you and your medical examiner believe that you’re well enough to drive, you can apply for one of the FMCSA’s Driver Exemption Programs. Once your application is submitted, you can expect a decision within 180 days. 

Missing or Impaired Limb? You’ll Need a Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate.

If you have a missing or impaired limb and want to drive a CMV, you’ll need a Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate. You’ll find an application on the FMCSA website, along with information on renewing a current SPE. A road test that proves your ability to safely operate your CMV is part of the application process. 

Pass DOT Physicals & Continue Operating Trucks Safely

If concerns come up during your DOT physical examination, it’s best to discuss them honestly with your medical examiner, especially if they don’t intend to give you the clearance you need to drive. This can help you make the health decisions needed to get back on the road as quickly as possible.

Remember, CVSA Roadcheck 2024 inspections are coming up in just two weeks. Inspectors will check to ensure drivers have valid medical certifications. Now is the time to review your drivers' DOT medical cards to verify they're not expired.

Have questions about the DOT physical process? Talk to one of our DOT compliance experts today. 

Links to Related DOT Physical Articles in This Series:

The DOT Physical: Everything You Need to Know 

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

DOT Physicals: Vision Requirements for the Eye Exam      

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: 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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