We have entered a time where there are faster electronic checks and quicker enforcement of Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for DOT physical exams. And while drivers are ultimately responsible for keeping up with DOT and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements for their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), for their own good carriers and transportation service owners should play a big role in its facilitation. Not only can the newly increased fines for both the driver and company be substantial, but a driver in today’s electronically interconnected world without an up-to-date DOT physical is basically…instantly…a driver without a CDL.
That means if he or she should enter a weigh station or be stopped for any reason a DOT officer can issue an Out-of-Service violation preventing your vehicle from moving any further. That leaves your vehicle, freight or passengers sitting along side the road with unhappy customers and an ensuing PR nightmare. It’s not wise for freight carriers and bus companies to take a gamble and hope the driver is fulfilling the obligations. It’s important to be pro-active in ensuring drivers meet the physical exam regulations.
In Case You Wondered What Went On in a DOT Physical…
A DOT physical exam is not arduous or overly time-consuming. It does, however, need to be carried out by a FMCSA-certified medical examiner. These examiners are trained, educated and certified in DOT requirements, what to look for during an exam and how to report exam results.
The actual DOT physical is fairly quick.
1. There is a health history checklist, not unlike what everyone fills out when going to a doctor’s office.
2. Hearing and vision tests are required. There is also a urinalysis test to look for proteins, blood or sugars in the urine that could indicate a yet-to-be discovered underlying health problem, or conditions that may not be well managed.
3. Finally, there are the medical examiner’s general impressions of a driver’s fitness. These include the general appearance of the skin, eyes, back/spine, gait, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, and many more.
Upon a complete review of the driver and tests, the Medical Examiner has three options on the form they are required to fill out. They can select a checkbox that:
• States the driver does not meet FMCSA standards, and why.
• Approves the driver’s physical and certifies that they meet FMCSA standards for the maximum period of 24 months.
• Requires the driver to have periodic monitoring of a possible problem or condition. Therefore, the examiner will qualify the driver for work for only 3, 6 or 12 months while monitoring continues. In these cases, the driver will oftentimes have to also follow-up with their personal physician.
• Determine that the driver does not meet FMCSA standards to receive their medical examiner’s certificate.
Of course, in the ideal world all drivers would immediately pass a physical with flying colors and be re-certified for two years. But just so you know, periodic monitoring, and therefore limited-length certifications, is becoming very common. Routine physical problems that are under control, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, have often become a trigger for shorter certification periods.
How to Maintain DOT Physical Exam Requirements
To find FMCSA-certified medical examiners, and for the easiest and least expensive compliance option, it’s best to connect with a service whose specialty is DOT physicals, such as Washington Occupational Health Associates (WOHA). A good service will provide enhanced conveniences tailored to an understanding of the transportation, trucking and passenger bus industries. WOHA, for example, offers:
• Scheduling of DOT physicals
• A Designated Project Manager
• Secure Web Portal Reporting
• A Large Provider Network.
And because DOT physicals are their specialty with systems and structures in place to get the job done efficiently, a service such as WOHA will typically be less costly than a doctors’ group that offers DOT physicals.
While drivers must ultimately maintain their DOT physical, the company they drive for has a lot at stake if they don’t. Don’t wait for an upcoming Out-of-Service violation, fine or both. Get your drivers on a schedule and give yourself some peace of mind. Contact WOHA today for a consultation regarding their DOT physical exam services.