Department of Transportation Exams 101

Department of Transportation Exams 101

On January 1, 2000, the Federal Motors Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established to prevent commercial motor vehicle (CMV)-related fatalities and injuries. Previously part of the Federal Highway Administration, today the FMCSA is led from within the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Under the FMCSA, all CMV drivers are required to complete a medical exam to help motor carriers and drivers stay safe on the road. Below, we’ve compiled the basics of completing a DOT examination.

What is a DOT exam?

A DOT exam determines if a driver is fit to operate a CMV. The exam is performed by a certified medical examiner and helps to ensure that the driver is not at risk for losing consciousness or control of their vehicle.

Who can perform the DOT exam?

A DOT exam can be performed by a variety of providers, including physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and chiropractors. Only providers who have undergone training and successfully passed the qualifying exam can perform DOT exams. Providers must be certified and listed on the FMCSA national registry.

What does the DOT exam include?
  • An extensive medical history and a physical exam
  • Comprehensive vision test
  • Hearing or whisper test
  • Urine analysis to look for the presence of protein, blood and glucose (sugar)

Drivers must bring photo identification provided with a government-issued document to avoid fraud. After completing the exam, the medical examiner will determine whether the driver is medically fit to operate a CMV and the duration of the certification. 

Download the DOT Exam Requirements Checklist

What standards must the certified medical examiner follow?
  • The medical examiner must be trained and certified following FMCSA standards.
  • The medical examiner must follow 13 FMCSA standards and use evidence-based and established medical practices.
  • Following an exam, medical examiners can issue DOT medical cards for, at maximum, two-year certifications.
  • DOT cards may be issued for a short period if a driver’s medical condition is not stable.
  • Once DOT medical cards expire, they cannot be extended by a certified medical examiner. Drivers must complete another DOT exam.

What are the 13 FMCSA standards?

A driver is not fit to operate a CMV if they have the following conditions.

  • Alcohol-related diseases
  • Diabetes and use of insulin (Must have MCSA-5870 form filled out by the provider who manages your IDDM, if applicable.)
  • Drug or substance abuse disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Hearing diseases
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure, uncontrolled
  • Impairment of hand, finger, arm, foot or leg interfering with their ability to perform tasks needed as a CMV driver
  • Loss of foot, leg, hand or arm
  • Mental or psychiatric diseases
  • Musculoskeletal diseases
  • Respiratory diseases (including obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Vision diseases (Must bring the MCSA-5871 form filled out by your ophthalmologist or optometrist.) 

How can motor carriers and drivers prepare for their exams?
  • Drivers should make sure they’re managing their medical conditions to the best of their ability.
  • Drivers should bring any records or documents related to their medical condition to their exam to avoid a delay in receiving their DOT medical card.
  • Motor carriers should encourage their CMV drivers to bring up any medical conditions to the certified medical examiner.
  • Motor carriers make the final decision on who can operate their CMVs, even if a driver has been issued a DOT medical card.

Cooperation between Sanford OccMed, motor carriers and drivers helps to keep roads safe. If you have any questions about our DOT medical exams, contact us at (888) 600-2378 or email us.

Interested in learning more?

Watch a webinar that will further explore DOT medical exams.