DOT Physicals: What Happens When You Fail?
As we’ve discussed earlier in our series on DOT physicals, all drivers must undergo a physical exam at least once every 24 months in order to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Oftentimes drivers pass these exams without any problems – but that’s not always the case.
In some cases, the disqualification is unfortunately necessary because the person’s health would pose a threat to himself and the general public if he were to get behind the wheel of a truck. But sometimes the lines aren’t quite as clear, and what passes easily with one medical examiner might give another pause.
Because of this, the FMCSA has said that it’s okay for drivers to get a second opinion as long as they are upfront and honest about their medical history with the next medical examiner. Leaving out information during your DOT physical that could lead to a disqualification, or outright lying about their health, is illegal and can lead to fines against the driver.
Before you go “doctor shopping” in search of a valid medical certificate, you should keep in mind that physicians are required to report the results of all physical exams to the FMCSA. As of next month, these results are due within 24 hours of the exam.
Why Might I Fail?
There are a number of reasons why someone might be deemed unqualified to drive a motor vehicle. Some of these reasons include diagnosis of the following:
- Cardiovascular or respiratory disease
- High blood pressure
- A nervous or psychiatric disease
- Poor eyesight that isn’t improved with corrective lenses
- Loss of a foot, hand, leg or arm
Use of an amphetamine, narcotic or another habit-forming drug is also grounds for disqualification – even when used under the guidance of a physician.
Exemptions do Exist
As we covered in a previous article, the FMCSA does grant exemptions for drivers with certain conditions when they can prove that they’re able to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. Known as “variances,” these exemptions are granted for drivers with diabetes, vision and hearing issues. Drivers who have a missing or impaired limb that doesn’t interfere with their ability to drive safely can apply for a special variance known as a Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE).
You can learn more about these exemptions, and find instructions on how to apply for each one, here: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/medical/driver-medical-requirements/driver-medical-fitness-duty.