What to expect at your CDL medical exam

If you drive for a living, then you’re likely familiar with the CDL (commercial drivers license) medical exam. Also known as a DOT (Department of Transportation) physical, this is a check by a health care professional to ensure that you don’t have any medical conditions that could make driving dangerous.

Federal law contains a detailed list of medical requirements that commercial drivers must meet. Having performed over a thousand of these exams, Dr. Barnes is very experienced at following the DOT’s regulations and ensuring that your exam meets the required standard.

Unfortunately, many patients feel nervous when they visit a health care professional. Besides being unpleasant, this anxiety can cause your blood pressure to rise. Our goal is to help you feel calm and at ease during your visit, both for your comfort and so that we can get an accurate sense of your health. We will also be thorough in our work, to protect your safety and long-term health as well as the safety of others on the roads.

Your appointment with us will take about thirty minutes. So that you know what to expect and can feel more comfortable, here’s an outline of what a CDL medical exam looks like at Chester Chiropractic Center.

01. Check In

For your convenience, we will text and/or email you a link the day before your exam with the medical history forms that we’ll need. This allows you to fill out the forms on a computer or smartphone when you have time, and submit them to us in advance of your appointment. If you don’t have easy access to a computer or smartphone to fill out your forms, then you can do them on paper at our office. In this case, we recommend showing up for your appointment a few minutes early to give you time to complete the paperwork. If you submitted the forms ahead of time, then the check in process will be very quick.

02. Urinalysis

You will be asked to provide a urine sample after the check in process is complete. We will test the urine for sugar, protein, blood, density. This testing is required to get your medical card, and can allow us to detect medical problems such as diabetes or kidney disease.

We don’t need a very large volume of urine to do the required tests. However, if you’ve urinated within the last few minutes, then you may not have enough. For this reason, we don’t recommend stopping by the bathroom on the way into our office.

03. Eye Exam

Next, we’ll perform a simple eye exam. This involves reading letters from a chart while standing 20 feet away. We will test each eye individually as well as both eyes together. Additionally, we will perform a peripheral vision check. This ensures that you can detect motion at the edges of your vision, which is very important to your ability to drive safely.

The DOT requires that you have vision of 20/40 or better in each individual eye and both together in order to drive. However, it’s acceptable to use prescription glasses or contact lenses to achieve this level of vision. If you use any prescription lenses, please ensure that you bring them with you so that you can pass the vision test.

04. Physical Exam

The physical exam is the longest portion of the CDL medical exam. Your height and weight will be measured. Your blood pressure will also be checked, using a cuff on the upper arm. If it’s found to be high, we may check it again later in the appointment to verify the reading.

Dr. Barnes will look over your medical history forms and medication list. She may ask you questions to clarify or get further information. Those who take certain medications, such as opiate pain relievers, may not be able to drive safely. (Patients who are on these medications might be able to be switched to a different medication by their doctors to allow them to drive.)

Dr. Barnes will check your strength and range of motion. Key areas include an assessment of your grip strength (which must be sufficient to hold a steering wheel), lower back mobility (which affects your ability to sit for long periods of time), and ability to bend at the knees (which affects your ability to reach the gas and brake pedals safely). Additionally, she will check your mouth and throat for potential breathing obstructions. She will listen to your heart and lungs to check for any abnormalities.

Additionally, a simple hearing test will be performed. This involves repeating numbers that are whispered from five feet away (use of hearing aids is permitted). If the patient cannot pass this test successfully, then further hearing testing may be necessary.

05. Check Out

After all of these steps are complete, if you have met the required medical standards, then Dr. Barnes will sign off on your forms. You will also be required to sign the forms yourself, and your medical card will be issued. Some states may also have additional requirements for drivers beyond the federally mandated ones; if this applies to you, Dr. Barnes and her staff can assist you in getting those met as well.

If there is any medical problem that needs to be addressed before you can get your medical card, Dr. Barnes can direct you to a doctor who can help with this.


How long will my certificate be valid for?

Usually, a medical certificate is valid for 24 months. In certain cases, Dr. Barnes may issue a certificate for a shorter time. This is done when it’s necessary to monitor a certain medical condition to ensure that it’s treated appropriately. For example, it’s generally recommended that patients with diabetes receive an examination every 12 months, to ensure that the disease has not affected their vision or other functions.

Does having a medical condition disqualify me from driving commercially?

In many cases, it does not. Simply having a medical condition does not necessarily disqualify you from receiving your medical card, as perfect health is not necessary to drive safely. Only certain medical conditions and medications disqualify you from driving. If you have any known medical conditions, Dr. Barnes will discuss them with you at your appointment.

Will you make sure that I get my medical card?

We understand that driving is your livelihood, and we will not unnecessarily jeopardize that. At the same time, we also understand that driving can be dangerous, and we believe that it’s crucial to protect your safety as well as the safety of those around you. We care about your health, so we cannot “look the other way” if an issue that affects your safety is found. Rather, we will direct you to a doctor who can help you to address the issue, returning you to good health and hopefully restoring your ability to drive commercially.

While drivers used to “shop around” to find a lenient doctor who would be willing to ignore certain health problems to ensure that they receive their medical card, recent changes to the system have made this much more difficult. Additionally, doing so could endanger your long-term health, because ignoring a medical problem could lead to its becoming more serious. It’s better to work with a doctor to meet the medical requirements than to try to find one who will ignore them. This is what we will help you to do if we find any medical problems that disqualify you from driving commercially.

I have additional questions about the CDL medical exam requirements. Where can I find more information?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains an excellent FAQ here. In addition, when you come for your appointment for your DOT physical, you’ll have plenty of time to ask Dr. Barnes any additional questions you may have.

Chester Chiropractic Center

Are you a commercial driver who needs a CDL medical exam?

Dr. Barnes has performed over a thousand of these exams for drivers, and is very experienced at ensuring that your exam meets the required standard for a DOT physical.

We offer:

  • years of experience in performing these exams
  • assistance with completing the paperwork for getting your medical card
  • a calm, relaxing, and stress-free environment to get you certified

Please contact our office to schedule your CDL medical exam at Chester Chiropractic Center.

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