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DOT Physicals: Can You Pass with a Hernia?
10 mins read

When you want to become a commercial driver of a vehicle over 10,000 pounds (a CMV), you first have to pass the DOT (Department of Transportation) physical. This physical is required at least once every 2 years to ensure you are still fit and healthy enough to operate such a large vehicle. This exam looks at your overall health and tries to detect medical conditions that may put your safety, or that of the public, at risk.  

Drivers don’t often feel clear about which conditions may make passing the DOT physical difficult, so we’ve been covering exactly what you need to know on our blog. If this is your first DOT physical and you aren’t sure what to expect, make sure you click here to read our overview to familiarize yourself with what the physical involves.  

If you’re worried about whether a hernia will hinder your ability to pass the DOT physical, keep reading.   

Can you Pass the DOT Physical with a Hernia?

Yes, but it does depend on the severity of the hernia in question. Having a hernia will not cause you to fail your physical, but it may be flagged as an issue that needs to be treated before you can pass if your examiner believes it may cause you problems in the future. If you have a hernia but it does not cause you undue pain or discomfort, your medical examiner can allow you to pass the hernia check portion of the DOT exam.  

Does the DOT Physical Include a Hernia Check?  

Yes, your medical examiner will check for abdominal and inguinal hernias as a part of your physical exam, as well as any significant abdominal wall weakness that could indicate that you will experience a hernia in the near future.  

What Happens During a Hernia Check?

The exact process of your hernia check may differ depending on your examiner, but here’s what you can expect:  

  • Your examiner will explain that they are going to do the hernia check and what it involves. They’ll ask you if you have a history of hernia or any areas that are tender. 
  • Generally, they’ll ask you to lie on a bed without your shirt on, or pulled up to your chest, and to disrobe fully or partially on your lower half as they need to inspect your inguinal area, which is the lowest part of your abdomen right above the pubic area. 
  • They’ll look for any lumps, scar tissue, discoloration, abdominal distention, and they may ask you to cough as this can make the presence of a hernia more prominent.
  • Alternatively, they’ll have you standing, put their hand on your lower abdomen, over your pelvis, and ask you to cough. 

You can expect to feel a little uncomfortable, but the hernia exam is usually over quickly. You can click here for more information on the hernia examination 

What are the DOT Physical Requirements Regarding Hernia?

The physical requirements regarding hernias are simply that any hernia you have does not cause you pain or distress. The examiner needs to be convinced that you will be able to operate your CMV without issue, so your hernia needs to be something you can easily live with. 

If the hernia causes you pain, it may distract you from being able to fully focus on the road. While minor pain can be managed, if your examiner believes your hernia can cause you significant pain, they will refer you for further examination and treatment.  

There are no hard-and-fast requirements by the FMSCA regarding hernias, so it’s up to your medical examiner to decide if you can pass or if you need to seek further treatment first. Make sure you are honest about your condition – getting your hernia treated will not take you out of action for long. Generally, a hernia operation will cause you to be out of work for 1-2 weeks, and you only need to avoid heavy lifting for 4-6 weeks on average.  

DOT Physical & Hernia: FAQs

I have sensitive scar tissue from a past hernia surgery, can I pass?  

If you’ve had recent hernia surgery and you now experience minor discomfort from time to time from excess scar tissue, let the examiner know about the surgery and that this is the case. Answer honestly about whether or not it causes you significant discomfort. If all is well, they have no reason not to pass you.  

 I have a hernia and my doctor wants to wait and see if it corrects itself. Can I pass?   

If you are undergoing treatment for a hernia that involves waiting to see if your hernia corrects itself or to see if it continues to cause you little pain, the best thing to do is to take a note from your doctor to your physical with you. Tell your examiner about the hernia and your symptoms. They will examine the hernia in the same hernia check they give anyone undergoing their DOT physical. If you do not experience any adverse effects from the hernia, your examiner will likely agree with your doctor’s advice and allow you to pass.  

However, if they believe it will cause you problems as a CMV driver, they may recommend you seek more immediate treatment so you can start or continue your career as a commercial driver.  

 What happens if you need treatment for your hernia?  

If your medical examiner believes you need treatment for your hernia, they will refer you to the right people to move that process forward. Once you’ve had surgery to correct the hernia, you can start thinking about undergoing your DOT physical again as soon as you have the all-clear from your surgeon. There’s no specified length of time you have to wait before you can return to work, so you can get a new DOT physical as soon as you and your surgeon feel you are ready.  

 Can I refuse a hernia exam at my DOT physical?  

You cannot refuse your hernia exam and still pass the DOT physical – it is required. However, you can request a same-sex examiner to make sure you feel comfortable during the hernia check.  

 Can I pass the DOT if my hernia is controlled by a hernia belt?  

If your hernia does not cause you pain when you do not wear the belt, it’s likely your examiner will have no concerns in passing you.  

 The hernia check isn’t exactly something you’ll be looking forward to, but remember that it’s no big deal. Your examiner simply needs to ensure that your hernia isn’t going to get any worse in the near future and isn’t causing you pain that could be rectified with treatment. Your examiner will be no stranger to these examinations and, while awkward for you, are just another part of their job. If you feel uncomfortable, ask for a same-sex medical examiner to work with you so that you do. It will be over before you know it!  

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: 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: 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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