Back in May, all interstate CMV drivers were notified that they must get their medical certificates from medical examiners that are listed on the FMCSA’s National Registry. The law went into effect on May 21st, 2014 and ensures that all drivers obtain their medical certificate from doctors who are certified to do so. The medical screening and certification process sets medical standards that long haul truck drivers in the United States are required to meet in order to drive and ensure that drivers are healthy enough to safely operate a heavy truck and perform their day to day tasks. Note that a DOT physical exam for your CDL is valid for up to 24 months.
Below, a basic run-through of a driver’s typical medical screening to give an idea of what each part of the screening looks for and what you can expect (note: any anomalies, unusual results or waivers may require further testing, application for exemptions, more frequent examinations, etc.).
- Vision – a basic exam to check your ability to see clearly (in center field and periphery, as well as both near and far objects, and color).
- Hearing – Most commonly examined via forced whisper test (to determine if you can hear someone specking in a whisper near your ear) and/or audiometer (to test for certain tones and volumes).
- Blood Pressure – a critical test for the driver at-risk group. High blood pressure can put you at higher risk for strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure; if a driver’s blood pressure is high, they may be required to be medically certified more frequently.
- Cardiovascular – this is an inquiry into your current health, medical history and family medical history – be as honest as possible in order to give an accurate assessment of your overall cardiovascular health.
- Respiratory – this part of the exam looks for issues that may lead to breathing problems, such as sleep apnea, asthma, or emphysema. Like the cardiovascular portion, a driver will be asked about their current health, medical history and family medical history in order to gauge an overall picture of respiratory health.
- Neurological – coordination, movement, reflexes and balance are all checked during this part of the exam. The neurological check will also ask about current and past health (presence of headaches, seizures, and/or head injuries) to ensure drivers have quick thinking and the reactions required to safely drive a truck.
- Musculoskeletal – A physical exam during this part of the screening checks for any muscular diseases, loss limbs or appendages, limited use of arms, fingers, feet or legs and any back problems.
- Diabetes – Blood sugar levels are tested, and if diabetes is present, it will be further examined to ensure it is under control.
- Psychological – Mental health history, use of drugs or alcohol, and behavior are all examined.
- Drug and Alcohol Abuse – This portion ensures a driver is free of drugs and/or alcohol. You will be asked about the presence and frequency of use of drugs and alcohol during this portion of the exam.
- Medications – a driver will be asked about their prescription, over the counter and herbal medicine use during this part of the exam. The effect of any medicines currently taken by a driver and if they will affect the ability to safely drive, will be assessed
Remember, medical screenings are not a replacement for your regular doctor checkups!!! It is meant to ensure that drivers are medically qualified to drive a truck. One does not replace the other, and both are critical for any driver’s success – health and career wise. For more information regarding the medical screening process, visit the FMCSA’s website for Driver Medical Requirements.