In the simplest terms, you need to report to an approved medical professional, pass a physical exam and obtain your clearance under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The following tips may help you better prepare for the physical.
Don't Stress Out About It
It’s normal to worry about your DOT physical. However, the physical is just part of the process of gaining and keeping your approval to drive and worrying about it can do more harm than good. Short-term stress about the physical can actually throw off the results. Stress can elevate your blood pressure and cause additional anxiety. Try to make sure that you get good sleep the night before, leave yourself plenty of time to get to the exam and make every effort to create a stress-free environment as you get ready for the physical.
Watch Your Diet Before the Exam
Eating a big meal full of salt the night before a physical can affect your blood glucose levels and throw off blood pressure readings. Additional things to limit before your exam: tobacco use, caffeine intake and any other stimulants (like energy drinks) that may increase the risk of showing a high blood pressure reading during the physical. A healthier diet in the week leading up to your physical will go a long way toward helping you pass. Take it a step further and see if you can implement small dietary changes even earlier. Remember, small changes are easier to maintain and will help your body stay fit for the physical exam and the long haul.
Take Prescribed Medications As Directed
You don’t have to be in perfect health to pass your physical, but you also don’t want to fail the exam for something avoidable. Be sure to keep up with any prescribed medications and treatments. Failing to take medications as prescribed can trigger red flags in the examination room, leading to a failed physical.
Have Your Paperwork Ready
Bring any medical records you have available from your general medical practitioner to your DOT physical. You’ll want a record available for each current and past medical issue and steps you have taken or are taking to handle it. Having everything in order may help to avoid issues or delays with passing the physical. This includes a list of medications, names and contact info of other medical professionals you’ve seen and lab tests results. The more information you have with you when you show up, the better.
Bring Glasses and Medical Devices
If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure your prescriptions and lenses are up to date, and bring everything with you to your exam. If you have other medical devices that could be important to your medical history as it relates to driving (such as a CPAP machine for sleep apnea), bring these too. When in doubt, bring it out.
Drink Water to Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is always a good idea, but you should especially increase your water intake in the hours leading up to your physical. The added benefit - producing the urine sample will be that much easier.
Know What Happens After the Exam
At the end of your DOT physical, you’ll either be cleared to drive for two years, cleared to drive with more frequent monitoring or banned from operating due to health concerns. If you are banned from operating, know that you are entitled to a second opinion under the FMCSA. Taking all of the above steps can help you relax and to prepare as best you can.