The trucking industry is critical to the infrastructure in the United States, employing more than 3.5 million people. Truck drivers deliver groceries, medicine, and other important goods across the country.
With drivers on the road so many hours, good health is important. A lapse in judgment due to alcohol or drug use, or a heart attack due to poor health has potentially disastrous consequences.
If you’re working in the construction industry, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires a physical exam. Are you ready for your DOT physical?
Don’t fail your DOT physical! Avoid these five mistakes.
What Does the DOT Physical Cover?
The DOT physical ensures you’re in good enough shape to drive a truck. Long hours of sitting aren’t healthy, so if you’re driving a truck, you need to spend some time each day getting in shape!
Drivers must be at least 21 years of age and be fluent in English. You’ll also need a valid commercial driver’s license
One of the most important things for truck drivers is sobriety. If you have a drug or alcohol problem, you shouldn’t be driving unless you’re recovered.
You’ll need a DOT physical every two years. There are several other DOT physical requirements as well.
1. Lying About Cardiovascular Disease
Do you suffer from cardiovascular disease? Depending on the situation, you could fail your DOT physical. Be honest with the doctor conducting the exam.
Tell the doctor if you’re on any medications and what they are. The doctor looks for any heart and blood pressure irregularities.
Did you know that caffeine-containing drinks can raise your blood pressure? Consider giving up caffeinated beverages.
If you can’t give them up completely, lower your intake, especially 24-48 hours before your physical exam.
Salt is another problematic food additive for many people. If you have hypertension, high salt intake causes higher blood pressure. If you eat out on the road a lot, avoid
2. Don’t Arrive with a Full Stomach
Fasting 8-12 hours before your DOT physical is important. The doctor’s office told you to fast but you decided a quick cup of coffee or a scrambled egg wouldn’t hurt? Wrong!
That’s a huge mistake that could cost you. The doctor orders blood tests such as a comprehensive metabolic panel. This tests for several things such as:
- Blood sugar
- Vitamin B12
GGT is gamma-glutamyl transferase which is an enzyme in your body. Heavy alcohol use raises GGT levels in your body.
If you take any medications ask your doctor whether you can take them before the physical. You may have to fast from medications so they won’t affect your blood tests.
If you don’t fast before your blood and urine tests, your results could come back skewed. Don’t eat or drink anything except water during the fast.
2. Don’t Forget Your Corrective Lenses
Perfect 20/20 vision is nice but not necessary for truck driving. It is necessary that you bring your glasses to your DOT physical.
You will need 70 degrees of peripheral vision and 20/40 vision in each eye. The use of corrective lenses to achieve the right vision is fine.
3. Don’t Arrive Unprepared
Bring all your paperwork, including any medications you’re taking to your DOT physical exam. Don’t forget your glasses, and arrive at least 15 minutes early.
Many people have “whitecoat hypertension,” especially if they arrive late. This is when you’re anxious and your blood pressure goes up. Give yourself time to arrive and fill out any necessary paperwork.
Spend a few minutes doing deep breathing. This helps calm you and also lowers your heart rate.
4. Don’t Forget About Urine Testing
Urine testing is primarily a test for sugar in your blood due to diabetes. A urine test also reveals protein abnormalities and kidney issues.
The DOT physical doesn’t include a drug test but your company may request one during the exam. Employers screen for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and phencyclidine.
Drink water before your exam and don’t empty your bladder right before the exam. You can provide a better urine sample with a full bladder.
5. Don’t Be Combative
Never be combative with the doctor giving you your physical exam. Be honest and let the doctor know about any health issues or problems.
If the doctor thinks there’s some sort of problem, you won’t dissuade her through arguing. Do you feel like the doctor didn’t represent your health accurately?
You can ask for a second opinion and go to another doctor.
What Happens After a Failed Exam?
If you fail your exam, don’t panic! The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has programs that offer certain exemptions. Some exemptions are for drivers with diabetes, heart disease, and some disabilities.
If you fail due to a drug or alcohol problem, you will need a treatment program. You’ll need an evaluation by a DOT-certified substance abuse professional (SAP).
The SAP evaluates you and prescribes a specific treatment program. You’ll pay for the program yourself.
After program completion, you’ll take another drug test. If you pass the test and get back to work, you’ll take at least another six tests over the course of a year.
Passing Your DOT Physical
If you pay attention and avoid the above five mistakes you should pass your DOT physical. Be honest about any cardiovascular or other diseases you have.
Follow the doctor’s directions and fast the required number of hours before your exam. You don’t want to mess up your blood test results. If you do forget and eat something, tell the doctor!
Remember to bring your glasses and arrive early and prepared. Spend a few minutes calming yourself in the waiting room before the physical exam.
Come with a full bladder so you’ll have a good urine sample.
Never argue with the doctor about anything. If you don’t pass the exam, it’s not the end of the road. You can get a second opinion or take advantage of some of the FMCSA programs.
Take care of your body and your health, and you’ll pass the exam with flying colors!
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