Why Truck Drivers Need a DOT Physical to Check Their Blood Pressure

by Pride Transport | Feb 13, 2023

Anyone who drives a vehicle should be in the best health possible to prevent medical emergencies that could cause serious harm to themselves or others on the road. Since truck drivers are behind the wheel of vehicles that weigh tens of thousands of pounds, the Department of Transportation requires them to have regular physicals and takes it seriously when drivers don’t pass as expected. 


The majority of drivers have their DOT physical performed around every 24 months, which is how long the average DOT physical exam certificate is valid. However, if a medical examiner thinks you need to be seen more often because of issues with your test results, then your specific medical examiner’s certificate could be for only a year or even as short as a few months. You’ll need to continue passing the exams if you want to drive for work.


Why Blood Pressure Is a Big Deal for Truck Driving

There are several reasons why you should take your blood pressure seriously, for the sake of your health and your career. First, let’s take a look at what good blood pressure is. Your blood pressure reading has two numbers:


  • Systolic blood pressure, which shows the doctor how much pressure your blood is placing on your arteries each time your heart beats
  • Diastolic blood pressure, which represents the pressure on your arteries when the heart is resting

Combined, you’ll get a result that has two numbers: the top number, which should be below 120 in an ideal case, and the bottom number, which should be 80 or lower in perfect circumstances. 


Medically, there are different ranges for blood pressure that show if it is normal or high. 

Your goal should be to stay in the normal range as recommended by the
American Heart Association


In terms of your health, high blood pressure can lead to significant problems, such as:


  • Impaired eyesight
  • Loss of vision
  • Strokes
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart attacks
  • Heart disease


High blood pressure leads to poor blood circulation, and combined with the hours you’ll be behind the wheel, the results could be catastrophic. That’s why you need to focus on staying within the appropriate (and healthy) blood pressure range below 120/80. 


For your career, if your blood pressure is too high multiple exams in a row, the medical examiner may require regular, three-month visits, or they may disqualify you from driving completely.


View from inside truck of Pride Transport employee in the driver's seat


Can You Pass Your DOT Physical With High Blood Pressure? 

Passing the blood pressure portion of the DOT physical is essential if you want to keep your license to drive. If your blood pressure is too high, it could mean you’re at risk of a stroke or heart attack, for example, making you a high-risk driver. 


If your blood pressure gets over 140/90, then you will not be able to get certified. If it is at or below 140/90 with or without medication, then you will need to get recertified sooner than 24 months in the future. Usually, this means yearly visits to check on your level of hypertension, but the DOT examiner may decide that you need to be seen as soon as three months from the time of the examination.


Managing High Blood Pressure to Pass Your DOT Medical Exam

In the case that your blood pressure is nearing 140/90 or you are somewhere outside the normal range, it is time to take action to help protect your health and to reduce the likelihood of failing a DOT medical examination. Fortunately, there are several great ways to reduce your blood pressure.


Some ideas include:

  • Getting more sleep. Sleep helps your body heal and alleviates stress. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re at a greater risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Stopping smoking. If you smoke, it could raise your blood pressure
  • Exercising more regularly. For this job, you’ll sit often. You need to get your blood pumping with regular exercise to keep your cardiovascular system in good shape. A recent study found that for every 1,000 steps the participants took, their systolic blood pressure number dropped by around .45 points. If you walk 10,000 steps a day, your blood pressure could drop by around 2.25 points. 
  • Drink more water and eliminate soda, juice, and coffee when you can. Water can reduce the amount of sodium in your blood. Sodium can promote higher blood pressure, so by reducing its levels in your body, you may see your blood pressure drop significantly. 
  • Reduce your salt intake. Fast food, especially, is known for containing significant amounts of sodium. Sometimes, a single meal has more sodium than you should have in a day. In fact, most Americans eat 3,400mg of sodium a day, but the suggested amount is only 2,300mg. Cutting back on the burgers and fries on your drive could help you reduce your sodium intake and, therefore, your blood pressure. 

By doing one or more of these things, you may be able to get your blood pressure back in normal ranges. However, sometimes it’s necessary to look into getting medicated.


Take Care of Your Health With Pride


With the right approach to your health, it’s possible to pass your DOT medical examination and keep your medical certificate valid. Sometimes, though, exams don’t go as expected. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your medical provider about the steps you can take to start reducing it one day at a time, so you can feel healthier and reduce the risk of losing your certification to drive. 

At Pride Transport, our priority is making sure our drivers are safe, which is why we encourage each and every one of them to focus on their health and wellness. Along with making sure our drivers understand the requirements of the job and what to do to pass the DOT medical exam, we provide health, dental and vision insurance to our fleet members. If you’re interested in learning more about benefits and job opportunities at Pride, visit our website here.

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