What Happens if You Fail a DOT Physical?

The DOT physical is a comprehensive health examination mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Required as a compliance measure, DOT physicals ensure that commercial drivers are healthy and fit to drive. If you’ve failed your DOT physical, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. A failed test doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line for your driving career. Sometimes changing your DOT physical status from fail to pass is as simple as getting corrective lenses.

Here are some tips for moving forward after a failed DOT physical:

Don’t Panic

Panicking only creates additional and unnecessary stress, which is bad for your health. Focus on the facts, and don’t jump to extremes. Unless you have a diagnosed medical condition that can’t be treated, chances are you’ll have an opportunity to address the area(s) that led to your failure of the physical. For instance, if your eyesight posed an issue, corrective lenses could solve the problem immediately. Similarly, if hearing loss contributed to your failed test, the resolution may be as simple as a hearing aid.

Determine What You Need to Do

The doctor performing your DOT physical and/or checking your records for the appropriate results should be able to provide a clear explanation as to why you failed. Ask questions to make sure you have a clear understanding of the problem areas, and use this information to decide on your next steps. Make sure to ask your medical provider for clear recommendations on how to address the issues that led to your failed test so that you can pass it in the future.

Get A Second Opinion 

You’re always entitled to a second opinion under FMCSA rules. Remember that you will need to provide the second examiner with the same records as the first, and you must provide him or her with all other relevant information to help them make their determination. Some drivers are tempted to withhold information in hopes of passing with a second provider, but it’s important to remember that each doctor you see is required to file a report with the FMCSA. It is better to be honest so you don’t get caught trying to cheat the system.

Find Out If An Exception Is Appropriate

The FMCSA does leave room for certain exceptions when it comes to receiving medical clearance to drive. These might include anything from hearing and vision issues that can be addressed through medical aids, to missing or limited limbs that don’t necessarily affect your ability to drive safely. If the issue can be adequately managed to ensure safety on the road, it may very well be possible to gain medical clearance despite the initial failure of your DOT physical.

Take Care of Yourself

While cause for concern, failing your DOT physical does not mean it's the end of the road for your career. Keep in mind, though, that the test is in place for your safety and the safety of others and you do have options to improve your outcome. Take good care of your health on a day-to-day basis, address any medical conditions necessary for you to maintain road-readiness and stay up to date on all DOT physical requirements.