Driving a truck can be a risky job, and not just because more time on the road means more exposure to risk factors for traffic accidents. The bigger risks are risks to one’s health that come from the physical toll that long hours behind the wheel can take. Drivers face long periods seated, and work long hours. Driving is a physical task, even if it isn’t always one that requires heavy lifting. The constant body awareness and attunement that you need to control a complex vehicle like a semi takes a toll on the body. That’s why the DOT requires a physical to clear drivers for service.
If you’re wondering how to pass a DOT physical, it’s vital that you remember you won’t be able to just cover up serious symptoms if you have a health condition that makes it dangerous for you to be a truck driver. At the same time, there are a few things you can do to maximize your chances of being cleared without a hiccup, too.
Tips for Your DOT Physical
Doctors recommend following through with these suggestions during the month leading up to your physical to make sure your baseline health is read accurately. This will make it easier for you to meet the DOT physical requirements without trouble. Failing to follow through on these items might not prevent you from working, but it will make your vitals less consistent, which can have unpredictable results.
• Eat and drink healthy foods for weeks before your exam, avoiding fried foods and alcohol, as well as sugary drinks and overly processed foods. This has a range of positive effects on your blood pressure as well as your sugar numbers and other key vital signs.
• Take all prescribed medications consistently for a full month. Use alarms for reminders if necessary. The more your medication schedule remains constant, the more effective those meds will be.
• Make sure you do not run out of any medications during the month before your exam. Medications can take weeks to stabilize again after withdrawal, and the withdrawal symptoms themselves can push your vitals out of range for the exam.
• Make sure any contact lens or glasses prescriptions are up to date and bring them to the exam.
Requirements for the DOT Physical
If you’re wondering whether you’re going to pass for your full 2-year certificate, you need to know what numbers the doctor is looking for. Remember, for many of these vital signs, there are tiers of risk. High blood pressure might not sideline you, but it could result in a 1-year or 3-month certificate that requires you to follow up to demonstrate your health is maintaining.
• Blood pressure below 140/90
• Diabetes must be controlled with a physician-approved plan
• A1C Test < 10 percent, at examiner’s discretion
• No current diagnosis of cardiac disease
• If the patient has sleep apnea, a control plan must be in place
• Vision must be at least 20/40 with correction
• Hearing must be good enough to hear a forced whisper from five feet away in at least one ear
Some of these factors are just outside your control, but when it comes to your blood pressure and sugar, following through with a healthy lifestyle can make the difference between your 2-year certificate and a major problem in your professional life. Make sure you know your vitals going into the exam, so you’re not hit with any surprises. The best way to do this is a physical with your own General Practitioner a month or two before your exam is due, to help you make yourself aware of any issues you might encounter.
Other Ways to Streamline Your DOT Physical
Your vital signs aren’t the only thing that could slow down your approval at your DOT exam. If you’re looking for how to pass a DOT physical smoothly and quickly, you also need to know how to keep the system working smoothly as your exam paperwork is processed. Here are some tips to help you ease your way through the system.
• Bring any paperwork you have pertaining to your health conditions, including paperwork that demonstrates your treatment plans for conditions like sleep apnea.
• If you have a history of blood sugar issues, paperwork demonstrating the long-term stability of your sugar levels can also be very helpful to the examiner.
• Documentation of all your medications, especially medications for conditions the exam checks for.
Your Health Is Essential
Remember, one of the biggest reasons for the DOT physical is to ensure you are not taking unnecessary risks with your health. The best way to make sure you pass is to keep a healthy routine and to exercise regularly while you’re on the road. There’s nothing that will help your essential vital signs more than a good diet, regular sleep, and physical activity.