Truck Driver Physical Requirements Each Prospect  Should Know

The DOT has numerous truck driver physical requirements that you’ll need to follow if you want to obtain or keep your CDL. This guide will show you what you need to do


Jacob Lee
February 21, 2024
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The Department of Transportation (DOT) enforces numerous truck driver physical requirements that must be met. Truckers will be tested on:

  • Vision
  • Hearing 
  • Blood pressure
  • Urinalysis
  • Sleep apnea

In addition to lab testing, truckers will have to undergo a physical examination to ensure they don’t have any underlying health conditions.

With our guide on DOT physical requirements, you’ll be able to maintain or earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL) with ease. 

A truck driver having an eye exam

DOT’s Truck Driver Physical Requirements

The DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces a variety of safety requirements. Due to the dangers that come with operating semi trucks, the DOT requires all would-be CDL holders to complete a physical to ensure they’re healthy enough to perform the functions required for operating these vehicles. 

Once a driver has completed their truck driver medical card requirements, they’ll need to retest at least every two years. Depending on their health, CDL holders might be tested more frequently. 

There are six specific areas prospective drivers can expect to be tested on.

1. Vision

According to the DOT’s truck driver vision requirements, CDL holders must have 20/40 vision in each eye. This requirement can be achieved with or without corrective lenses or eyeglasses. Peripheral vision of a driver must be 70” in each eye. 

If drivers can’t meet these requirements, they have the option of submitting a CDL vision waiver. New exemption guidelines were implemented by the FMCSA on March 22, 2022

It requires truckers to:

  • Pass a vision examination by their eye doctor
  • Submit the FMCSA form to their certified medical examiner
  • Maintain their current Medical Examination Certificate (MEC)

The DOT values the vision of drivers because of how important this sense is when operating a commercial motor vehicle. Without good sight, truckers will be more likely to get into accidents that harm themselves and other drivers. 

2. Hearing Test 

Per the DOT’s hearing requirements, truck drivers must be able to hear a forced whisper from at least five feet away. They can accomplish this with or without the use of hearing aids. The purpose of this test is to determine if a driver has a hearing loss of fewer than 40 decibels in each ear. 

Fortunately, truckers that fail the forced whisper exam won’t be immediately disqualified. Instead, they can take an audiometer test to meet this requirement 

This device will play various tones to determine the driver’s hearing range.  If a trucker can’t pass the hearing segment of the DOT physical examination, they can apply for exemption. 

To be approved for exemption, truckers will need to fill out the following:

  • Medical Release Form
  • Federal Hearing Exemption Application

Drivers that do have to wear hearing aids will need to wear them while they’re driving. They also need to have a secondary power source for the aids at all times. 

3. Blood Pressure and Pulse Checks

The blood pressure and pulse of a CDL holder is another concern the DOT wants to check. This type of testing is done to determine if the applicant has high blood pressure or if they have irregular heartbeats. 

To pass the DOT’s truck driver blood pressure requirements, CDL holders must have a blood pressure of 140/90. This measurement can be obtained with or without the use of medication. 

There are options for  truckers that have blood pressure higher than 140/90:

  • 140/90–159/99: Drivers with blood pressure in this range are considered to have have Stage 1 Hypertension. Their medical certificate will need to be renewed every 12 months. 
  • 160/100–170/109: This is the range for Stage 2 Hypertension. Truckers within these blood pressure measurements will need a 3-month medical certification. Drivers will be disqualified if they don’t have the condition under control in three months. Renewal of their medical card will have to occur every 12 months.
  • 180/110: Truckers with this blood pressure are automatically disqualified. A 6-month certification is required once their condition is under control. Medical cards require renewal every six months. 

Having high blood pressure has a negative impact on the well-being of truckers and puts them at high risk for events such as heart attacks. Therefore, keeping blood pressure as low as possible is essential for safety.

4. Urinalysis

Many new truckers think the urinalysis that’s part of the DOT physical will test them for drugs. This exam is performed to determine if a driver has any underlying health conditions like kidney disease or diabetes.

A urinalysis tests can pick up on issues related to:

  • High or low glucose, a symptom of diabetes 
  • Elevated protein, a sign of possible kidney failure
  • Blood presence indicative of kidney, bladder, or other infections of the urinary tract including cancer 

DOT drug tests are different from the urinalysis that’s part of the physical. There are numerous occasions when truck drivers will have to complete a drug screening

  • Pre-employment: This is required before prior to a driver being hired
  • Reasonable suspicion: These are performed if a driver is suspected to have used drugs or alcohol illicitly
  • Post accident: Truckers will need to complete this test after being involved in an accident
  • Random: Drivers are selected randomly throughout the year for drug testing
  • Return-to-duty: After a truck driver has violated drug or alcohol rules in the past and returning to work
  • Follow-up: Unannounced tests for drivers that have passed a return-to-duty and continued working

When drivers do complete a DOT drug test, they’ll be tested for the following substances:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamine
  • Phencyclidne — PCP

The drug test will also identify an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or higher. 

5. Sleep Apnea 

The sleep apnea test isn’t routinely performed during the DOT physical. That said, certified DOT medical examiners that perform the exam will look at a few key indicators to determine if an undiagnosed driver must complete a sleep study. 

Drivers with a body mass index (BMI) over 40 will need to test for sleep apnea, even if they don’t have any other symptoms. 

A sleep study will also be required if a trucker has a BMI of 33 and three to four of the following conditions:

  • Male or post-menopausal female
  • Are the age 42 or older
  • Hypertension (treated or not)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Personal history of heart problems
  • Micrognathia or retrognathia
  • Small upper airway
  • Neck size of 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women
  • Hyperthyroidism 

Truck drivers that report symptoms of sleep apnea during their DOT physical exam may be asked to complete a sleep study. 

According to the FMCSA, symptoms can include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Headaches and nausea that occurs in the morning
  • Gasping or choking while asleep
  • Extreme sleepiness during the daytime
  • Depression or irritability
  • Trouble sleeping through the night
  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Frequent nighttime urination

Truckers can continue driving if they’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, as long as they take the correct steps to treat it. After diagnosis, CMV operators must undergo a DOT physical every 12 months.   

Additional requirements include:

  • Documentation of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine use for 30 consecutive days
  • Proof that drivers have adhered to CPAP compliance for at least four hours on 70% of the nights in the previous 30 days
  • During the DOT physical following a sleep apnea diagnosis, truckers will need to report no major sleepiness or fatigue
  • Drivers will need to provide a CPAP therapy report for the previous period since the last medical card expired. This must be done for each yearly DOT physical 

Since sleep apnea can be detrimental to a driver’s safety while on the road, it’s essential for truckers to get this condition under control for the DOT physical. 

6. Examination

Truckers will also go through a simple DOT physical examination. This is done to study different parts of the driver’s body and determine if there are any undiagnosed concerns.   

Doctor’s will check:

  • Overall appearance
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Throat and mouth
  • Heart
  • Chest and lungs
  • Driver’s abdomen
  • Vascular system
  • Genitourinary system
  • Extremities
  • Spine and musculoskeletal system
  • Neurology

This physical examination, while important, will be over fairly quickly. 

We have an article on truck driver tax deductions that will help you save a great amount of money when tax season comes around.

A truck driver having their sound tested

Forms Required for A DOT Physical

There are numerous forms that are used for conducting DOT physicals. Some of these documents have to be filled out by truckers, while others need to be completed by a medical professional. 

Medical Examination Report

The medical examination report (MER) form, MCSA-5875, is used for the DOT physical. Part of this document is filled out by the trucker, and the rest is completed by the medical examiner.

Parts filled out by the CDL holder include:

  • Driver information
  • Driver health history

After these sections are complete, the medical examiner will fill out these parts:

  • Driver health history review
  • Testing results
  • Physical examination
  • Medical examiner determination (federal)
  • Medical examiner determination (state)

This document essentially creates a profile of the truck driver’s health condition. The purpose of the MER is to evaluate the physical and medical fitness of a CDL holder.    

Medical Examiner’s Certificate

Once a truck driver has successfully completed the DOT physical exam, they will receive a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), form MCSA-5876. In some cases, this is referred to as a DOT medical card.

This document serves as proof that a trucker has completed a DOT physical exam. The MEC  should be submitted to a trucker’s licensing agency when they apply or renew their CDL.

Physical Conditions That Can Disqualify Truck Drivers

There are certain conditions that could disqualify a trucker from passing the exam. We’ve listed the disqualifying factors that can prevent a person from obtaining or keeping their CDL.   

These include: 

  • Loss of hand, foot, or limbs unless they have received a skill performance evaluation certificate
  • An arm, foot, or limb that interferes with the ability to perform normal tasks associated with operating a motor vehicle
  • A hand or finger that interferes with the ability to grasp
  • Clinical diagnosis or medical history of diabetes mellitus that’s treated with insulin
  • A  cardiovascular disease diagnosis that could cause a driver to lose consciousness
  • Blood pressure that’s high enough to impact driver’s ability to operate a CMV
  • Musculoskeletal disorders that can interfere with a driver’s ability to operate CMV safely
  • Epilepsy and similar conditions
  • Visual acuity in each eye with or without correction that’s greater than 20/40
  • Peripheral vision of less than 70 inches in each eye
  • Red /green colorblindness
  • Hearing loss that can’t be corrected to less than 40 decibels or from five feet away

Some of these conditions can be overcome with the correct treatment. However, certain ones can’t be fixed and will prevent a driver from holding CDL

Bottles of prescription drugs

Medications That Are Restricted by DOT

Truck drivers are allowed to take a prescription medication if it’s been issued by a medical professional. However, controlled substances and any drug in the 21 CFR 1308.11 (391.42(b)(12)) are strictly forbidden. 

  • Amphetamines
  • Narcotics
  • Any habit-forming drug (including opioids)

Anti-seizure medication that’s used for preventing seizure will disqualify a trucker as well. 

Is There An Age Limit To Be A Truck Driver?

There is no rule that says when someone is too old to be a trucker. Truck driver age requirements in most states only dictate that a CDL holder must be at least 18 years of age.

That said, this career can be tough on the body and mind. Therefore, the truck driving profession is much easier on those who are younger and in good physical shape. 

Our article on truck driver safety tips will help improve your driving practices and ensure you make it home in one piece. 

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  • Benefits: ABCO offers its drivers medical, dental, and vision benefits. We also provide life insurance
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Improve your trucking career by making the move to ABCO. Start filling out your application or call our team at (866) 980-2710 to learn more about our job opportunities.           

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