What is a DOT Physical?

A Department of Transportation (DOT) physical is a health examination mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. A DOT physical helps determine if a driver is physically, mentally, and emotionally fit to operate a commercial vehicle.

Commercial drivers are safety-sensitive employees; they perform a job that can impact their own safety and the public’s safety. Employers of commercial drivers must comply with federal regulations for DOT physicals.

What Happens During a DOT Physical

The DOT physical will include a health history review of the driver by a certified medical examiner (CME). The CME will also check the driver’s vital signs and perform a thorough examination, evaluating a number of health-related categories, such as:

  • General appearance
  • Extremities
  • Lungs and chest
  • Heart
  • Eyes and ears
  • Mouth and throat
  • Nervous System
  • Back and Spine

Upon exam completion, the CME will report the results to the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). Certified drivers will receive a copy of the medical examiner’s certificate (MEC), or DOT medical card.

What Employers Should Know

  • Only a CME can administer a DOT physical.
  • A DOT physical is required when a driver operates a CMV across state lines (i.e., interstate driving).
  • Employers of intrastate drivers (i.e., drivers who stay within one state) are subject to the physical qualification regulations of that specific state.
  • The National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME) has a current list of CMEs.