by Pride Transport | Jun 03, 2019
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, commonly known as the FMCSA, requires that all commercial drivers carry a certificate of good health. Such a certificate is received upon passing the DOT physical exam.
Drivers are required to take this exam before they can drive and they have to repeat the exam every two years. The follow-up could be shorter if there are issues when the certificate is issued but normally, it’s every two years.
The exam itself is pretty straight forward and covers the following: Vision and hearing tests, blood tests to check for high blood pressure or other medical issues and urinalysis as part of a drug and alcohol test. That’s it. As I said, straightforward and simple. However, you’d be surprised how many drivers don’t pass this test due to simple and avoidable mistakes.
With that in mind, here are some tips to prepare for and pass the DOT physical exam.
Avoid coffee and energy drinks for 24 hours before the exam. The caffeine in these beverages can raise your blood pressure and make it more likely that you’ll be restricted or disqualified.
Cut back on salt the week before the exam. Like caffeine, salt will raise your blood pressure and put you in jeopardy of being disqualified.
Make sure you come prepared. By prepared I mean arrive with a list of all medications, medical paperwork, your eyeglasses and make sure you have a full bladder. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the exam, you don’t want to be rushing or stressed. Also, if your prescribed medications for medical conditions, make sure you take them before the exam.
Avoid having a big meal before the exam. A huge buffet breakfast before the DOT exam may sound yummy but, it’s not ultimately wise. A breakfast of this type is going to increase the sugar in your urine and raise diabetes warning signs. Eat a light and healthy breakfast before you go in for the exam.
Keep breathing and avoid “White Coat Syndrome”. For some, being in an examination room is a major cause of stress that can raise blood pressure. Often times this stress is increased when the person sees the white lab coat of a doctor. It’s a very real fear. However, fear can be controlled if you focus on your breathing. Take deep, slow breaths and do your best to remain calm.
Other things to Think About
Hygiene is important for doctors who give these exams. Make sure you've cleaned and scrubbed and are smelling nice before your exam. Bad odors can be signs of serious disease. You don’t want body odor due to lack of time to bathe being mistaken for Trimethylaminuria, a rare metabolic disorder that is identified by a pungent, fishy odor. No one wants that.
Take any current compliance letters for special illness or medications from your doctor with you. Also, have copies of your most recent lab tests. Keep a medical log if you can, this will really impress the doctor.
Do you use a CPAP machine? Bring it with you and your compliance letter to the exam as well. CPAP machines are prescriptions just the same as medications.
Getting to and Arriving at the Clinic
Plan getting to the clinic or doctor’s office carefully. Leave yourself plenty of time to catch a bus or an Uber and pay attention to traffic if you’re driving. You do not want to be late or stressed and rushing when you go to this exam. Calm, have patience, be collected are the best ways to approach this so, make it easy on yourself.
Once you’re at the clinic or doctor’s office, and this is very important to most doctors who administer this exam, treat the staff with courtesy. If you treat a nurse or technician badly, the doctor will find out about it and will not give you the benefit of the doubt if it comes down to it.
Most restricted DOT medical disqualifications are the decision of the doctor. This means the FMCSA allows a doctor a lot of discretion in determining whether you get a card or not. So, be kind and patient.
Have a good attitude; don’t go into the medical facility and expect to be seen right away. A long wait at a doctor’s office is just the way it is. Be ready for that and don’t be surprised or angry when you have to wait.
Get a second opinion. If you think your examiner was not competent or not fair you might want to consider getting a second opinion. This could be the difference that keeps you in the driver’s seat.
All in all, it’s pretty simple as long as you’re prepared. Take all the required paperwork and documents, arrive with time to spare and above all, remain calm and polite and you should have no problem acing this exam.