Before you can operate a commercial vehicle (CMV) or obtain a commercial vehicle license, you must pass a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam. A DOT physical is administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and includes a series of exams and background medical history screening.
It’s important to note that falsifying medical records or lying on a DOT physical has serious consequences, including civil and potentially criminal penalties.
In this blog, we explore why a DOT physical is important, what’s involved, how to prepare, and why you should never lie during the DOT physical examination process.
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Commercial drivers provide an essential service, transporting goods and people – often in large vehicles – between locations.
If you’re applying for a position that requires you to drive a CMV, a certified DOT medical examiner must attest that you are physically, mentally, and emotionally fit to perform this demanding role.
A DOT physical is a medical exam that screens CMV drivers to ensure the safety of the driver and the general public. Periodic DOT physicals keep the nation’s roads safer by ensuring that drivers can handle the physical demands and emotional stressors of operating a commercial vehicle.
DOT physicals are especially important in detecting chronic conditions that can impede a driver’s ability to perform work-related tasks, such as vision issues. They also ensure employers are compliant with FMCSA rules and minimize workplace absences due to injury.
A DOT physical is a prerequisite for obtaining a commercial driver’s license and mandatory for drivers who will operate a vehicle that:
A DOT physical exam is conducted by an FMCSA-certified medical examiner. During the assessment, the professional will evaluate the following:
The examiner also inquires about your medical history, tobacco, alcohol, drug use, and current health problems. A sleep apnea study may be ordered.
Results are shared with the FMCSA regardless of whether you pass or fail.
If you pass your DOT physical you will be issued a DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC). A DOT physical exam is valid for up to 24 months. The medical examiner will keep your MEC on file for three years.
Lying on a DOT physical is illegal and could lead to fines and penalties. It could also put your safety and that of the public at risk.
Lying can involve a failure to disclose a medical condition or history of drug or alcohol use that makes it dangerous for you to operate a commercial vehicle.
Deliberately lying during the DOT physical exam has severe legal consequences – both civil and criminal.
Lying on your DOT physical is not worth the risk. Consider the following real-life examples:
Being dishonest or lying on a DOT physical exam can have a devastating impact on your professional life, including disqualification from operating commercial vehicles, potential job loss, financial hardship, and damage to your professional reputation.
To avoid any chance of failing or falsifying information during your DOT physical, it’s important that you understand what the DOT considers disqualifying conditions for a commercial truck driver and the steps you can take to avoid common missteps and misunderstandings about your medical history.
The FMCSA prohibits a medical examiner from certifying a driver who exhibits or has a history of a DOT disqualifying medical conditions or uses medication or substances that interfere with their ability to drive or operate a CMV safely.
Disqualifying medical conditions discovered during the DOT physical exam that can lead to a failed exam and bar you from obtaining a commercial vehicle license include:
These conditions are considered disqualifying since they may result in loss of consciousness, an inability to read or respond to traffic signals, balance issues, or other physical limitations that put you and the public at risk.
To avoid any accusations of lying on your DOT physical, be prepared to provide current documents detailing your medical history as well as any medications you’re taking.
Try to gather as much information as you can, including:
As you prepare for your DOT physical, take steps to avoid potential missteps. For example:
Failing a DOT physical may keep you off the road in the short term, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. The FMCSA offers a variety of options for successfully obtaining your DOT medical certificate.
You may apply for an exemption for certain medical conditions, such as vision, hearing, or seizures. Exemptions are granted following an application to the FMCSA and are not issued by a DOT medical examiner.
You’ll need to submit very specific information to the agency for review. This may include physical qualification exam information, medical records, employment history, driving experience, and motor vehicle records. The FMCSA will make a final decision within 180 days of receiving a completed application.
To apply for an exemption, visit the FMCSA website.
Note: FMCSA exemptions are only available if you intend to operate a CMV in interstate commerce. FMCSA does not have statutory authority to grant waivers/exemptions to drivers from states’ intrastate requirements.
If you don’t qualify for an exemption or have failed a DOT physical, there are steps you can take to succeed next time.
DOT physicals are performed by FMCSA-certified medical examiners. Acuity has a network of more than 11,000 providers, including certified medical examiners who can perform DOT physicals. You can also search for a certified medical examiner using the FMCSA National Registry.
During a DOT physical assessment, a medical examiner will evaluate your medical history, including physical, emotional, and mental conditions. Typical exams include an assessment of the following:
• Physical abilities (vision, hearing, etc.)
• Medical history and lifestyle
• Strength and stamina (especially if the position involves operating heavy equipment or machinery)
• Mental and behavioral health (such as the ability to handle the psychological pressures of the job)
• Functional limitations
• Drug and alcohol use
You may also be asked to undertake a sleep apnea test.
A DOT physical exam is valid for 24 months. If a medical examiner chooses to intermittently monitor your condition, a medical examiner’s certificate
may be issued for less than 24 months.
The penalties for lying during a DOT physical exam are hefty – and for good reason. Commercial drivers operate heavy vehicles at high speeds and in all types of weather. They also encounter daily hazards.
Lying about your health, medical condition, or use of drugs and alcohol to fraudulently pass a DOT physical can result in fines, suspension, or revocation of the medical examiner’s certificate – and the loss of your commercial driver’s license. If it’s determined that you knowingly falsified information, you may be fined up to $11,000. You can also be held accountable by your employer and the law.
Lying on your DOT physical is not worth it. Do the right thing.
Learn more about Acuity’s FMCSA-compliant DOT physicals.
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