Can Chiropractors and Other Doctors do DOT Physicals?
A DOT physical is necessary for any commercial driver crossing state lines operating a vehicle over 10,000 lbs to ensure they are healthy enough to operate the vehicle safely without putting yourself or others at risk. If you are new to DOT (Department of Transportation) physicals or have only had them through the companies you work for in the past, you may be surprised to find that the physicals can be carried out by Medical Examiners who are not Doctors of Medicine (MDs).
In this article, we’ll explain who can become a Certified Medical Examiner, whether any doctor can do a DOT physical, and what professionals need to do to become certified.
Can Chiropractors do DOT Physicals?
The question “can a chiropractor do a DOT physical” has been debated for a long time – especially before doctors had to become a Certified Medical Examiner (prior to 2014). The answer is yes, a chiropractor can do DOT medical exams, as long as they are a registered Medical Examiner.
The debate and controversy around this question largely comes from the perception that chiropractors are not “real” doctors. However, the FMCSA deems a range of medical professionals eligible to become Certified Medical Examiners. It’s important to remember that while a medical doctor (MD) will have had the most relevant training for diagnosing any health problems you have that may be flagged by the physical, the aim of the physical is not to make this diagnosis, but simply to check a wide range of health markers to ensure you are healthy enough to operate such a large vehicle. There are a wide range of medical professionals who have sufficient knowledge to do this.
Can Any Doctor do a DOT Physical?
Before 2014, any doctor could complete your DOT exam for you, but now the doctor must have completed specific training, passed an exam, and be registered with the FMCSA. This means that you cannot go to your local doctor’s office for your DOT physical unless they have a staff member who is qualified to give the examination.
The different types of medical professionals who are eligible to become a medical examiner are:
- Medical Doctors (MD)
- Osteopaths (DO)
- Physician Assistants (PA)
- Advanced Practice Nurses (APN)
- Chiropractors (DC)
- Naturopathic Doctor (ND)
- Other highly trained nurse roles (DNP, FNP & CNS)
- Physical Therapists (DPT)
Note that besides a Physician Assistant and most of the listed nurse roles, all listed roles must have a doctorate in their field to be eligible. There are a few other states where another role or two are eligible. If you ever have any doubt about the legitimacy of a Medical Examiner, search for them in the NRCME (National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners) database. If they have passed the relevant certification, they will be listed within that database.
What Makes a Doctor Qualified to do DOT Physicals?
To become qualified to do DOT medical exams, a doctor or medical professional must have one of the roles above or one of the additional roles allowed by the state you’re getting your physical in. All of these professions require intensive training to become qualified, often over 7 years, so completing the DOT physical – which is essentially an in-depth health check-up – should not be challenging for them.
The training doctors undergo to become a Certified Medical Examiner involves 8+ hours of study via an accredited training partner which then allows them to register with the FMCSA so they can book their exam.
The NRCME exam lasts for 2 hours and contains 120 questions. Approximiately 60-70% of those questions will be things they covered in their accredited training program, and the remaining 30-40% are questions that test their general clinical knowledge. The exam takes place in a testing center on a computer, so there is no chance of cheating. Once a medical professional passes this test, they will be registered on the NRCME and be able to complete DOT physicals for drivers.
Will the Type of Doctor Who Does my Physical Make a Difference?
It shouldn’t, and it’s unlikely. As we just covered, all certified medical examiners must have displayed the same level of knowledge to pass the exam, and there are very clear requirements that you must meet to pass. The doctor’s profession shouldn’t make any difference to your results, but if you believe you will only trust the opinion of an MD or highly qualified nurse, choose a provider with those certifications. If you speak to other drivers, you’ll find most have had the same experience regardless of which practitioner completed their physical.
What’s the Difference Between a DOT Doctor and a Medical Examiner?
There’s no difference between these two terms, and you may see them used interchangeably. “Medical Examiner” is the term used by all official documentation.
Can I Go to My Own Doctor for My DOT Physical or Do I Have to Use a Different Doctor?
If your doctor is a Certified Medical Examiner, then yes, you can go to them to have your DOT physical. There are no rules about how familiar—or not—you can be with the doctor completing the physical. If they are certified, you can go to them. If they are not a Certified Medical Examiner, then you will need to go to a different doctor or medical professional for your exam.
It’s also worth noting that some companies require or prefer you to use “their doctor” (their chosen doctor they work with often, not a doctor who works for them) to streamline the process. If you’re working for a new company, it may be worth checking to see if they have a preferred or recommended doctor for you to go to, and this will likely be the case if they pay for your physical.
How do I Find a DOT Physical Provider?
If the company you work for has no preference on which DOT physical provider you go to, the best way to find Certified Medical Examiners near you is to search the NRCME database. To do this, simply click here, then scroll to the bottom of the page. There, you’ll find a search function that will allow you to search for Certified Medical Examiners within a defined radius of you.
Your chosen Medical Examiner does not need to be near your permanent address or even in the same state – you can choose an examiner wherever you are in the country when you need to have your physical done.
When you find a potential certified DOT provider, check out their business the way you would any other. Look at their reviews and check that they have a high standard of patient and customer care. Ideally, the reviews will be related to the DOT physicals they provide, but reviews for any other service should provide a good representation of how they work. Make sure you find out their pricing ahead of your physical, as the cost can vary significantly from provider to provider, so make sure you are aware of the cost and are comfortable with what they’re charging, especially if the physical is being paid for by you.
When you find a provider that ticks all these boxes and you’re happy to move ahead with them, book your physical well ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about getting it before your current medical card runs out.
Any certified Medical Examiner should offer you the same excellent standard of service of care and knowledge as any other, so if a chiropractor is the most accessible DOT provider to you, there is no reason not to book your physical with them. The DOT physical need not be a stressful experience, so if you have any other concerns about whether you can pass or what the DOT physical entails, make sure you check out our other articles and guides on all the requirements of the physical so you can go into it feeling confident.