Why a DOT Card?

                                                         DOT Medical Card

                                           Who needs one, why, and what is it?


Why a DOT Card? – Heavy vehicles are an added danger for commuters and other drivers on the road, so there are further education and medical requirements and some considerations to keep in mind that is required before operating a commercial motor vehicle.



First, a DOT Card ensures that heavy vehicle operators follow safety regulations set by law that protect both their passengers and others on the roads around them.



Heavy vehicles take longer to stop, an uneducated or issues with pedestrians getting run over or being put into dangerous situations when they get stuck behind one of these trucks while trying to cross an intersection because it blocks traffic flow at times and causes delays.



Commercial motor vehicle operators who have not complied with the Department Of Transportations rules and regulations and driving without the DOT Health Card face having fines imposed against them from $2,750-$25,000 plus 12 months imprisonment if convicted under 49 U.S Code § 31310(B).


You may have wondered what a DOT card for commercial vehicle operation is. Well, it’s not just any old piece of identification; the Department of Transportation has made sure that commercial operators are held to a higher standard than the average license holder due in part to the added weight, size, limitation of, passenger capacity, and dangers associated with operating a commercial motor vehicle bring a much higher level of responsibility to the operator.



The Department of Transportation (DOT) issues these cards to ensure safety on public roads by making sure you are healthy and able to drive and take on this added responsibility associated with the added risks of commercial vehicle operation. 



The Importance of Getting Your DOT Medical Card

  • CDL drivers are required to obtain a DOT medical card. A DOT medical card is essential for professional drivers in most states, so folks driving interstate need to ensure they are compliant not only with Massachusetts laws, but the states they are traveling to/through. It is imperative CDL drivers learn as much as possible about these cards, the requirements, who needs one, and how they can get them, because a violation of any local, state, or federal law can result in the penalty and removal of your CDL permanently. 
  • Adhering to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations is essential for all professional drivers. Often, drivers experience confusion or misinformation about the process and are unsure of the steps they need to take to obtain their DOT exam and certification.
  • With this guide, CDL drivers will find it easier to navigate the system and obtain their health cards. This guide is meant to help professional drivers feel empowered to take charge of the process, so their careers can continue safely. 


What Is a DOT Medical Card?

  • A DOT Medical Card is a requirement for most professional drivers. Many truck drivers refer to the DOT card as a card, but it is really a certified health document. The Department of Transportation requires professional truck drivers to go through a physical examination before they can qualify to drive a commercial vehicle* Keep in mind, a commercial vehicle per The Department Of Transportation is different than the definition at the RMV for commercial plates.
  • In most cases, your health certification is good for twenty-four months. With some health conditions, drivers may only be able to certify for twelve months at a time. Failure to keep up with these requirements leads to a driver becoming not certified, which, in the case of CDL holders, could lead to the loss of their CDL license. Depending on the state, drivers will be informed of their not-certified status and will have thirty days to comply or lose their CDL license.  


Why You Need a DOT Card

Drivers who operate in non-exempt commerce are required by law to submit their CDL Health Card. This document proves a CDL driver is healthy enough to operate a commercial vehicle safely. Drivers are checked for the following during a DOT physical. 

  • Full medical history
  • Urine testing
  • Hearing tests
  • Sight tests
  • Vital signs


A DOT physical results in a report that is filled out by the attending physician. If the driver passes the examination, they are issued their DOT HEALTH CARD. It is imperative that you always carry your DOT Card on you while operating a motor vehicle, as you may be asked to present it in the event of a DOT inspection or if you get pulled over.


Some drivers may be monitored for certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure. The medical examiner may require a driver to undergo further testing, start taking medications and follow up, to ensure their condition is improving. 

It is important to note that not all states require a DOT EXAM. If a driver drives from state to state, they will likely need a card, to ensure they meet all the laws of each state they enter. 


Who Needs a DOT Card?


As stated above, not all states require a DOT Medical Exam, and some drivers may be exempt. It is important professional drivers know if they need to obtain a health card, so they can ensure they are meeting the stipulations of the law. The following offers information on who needs a DOT Card. 

Drivers who do Interstate work will need a DOT medical card if the following applies to them. 


  • Drivers who drive vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight, gross vehicle weight rating, gross combination weight, or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more will be required to obtain their DOT physical examination
  • Drivers who drive vehicles that are meant to carry more than fifteen people are also required to have a DOT CARD. If the driver is directly compensated, and the vehicle is designed to carry more than eight passengers, a DOT medical card is also required. 
  • Drivers who transport hazardous materials are always required to have a DOT EXAM conducted. 

It is important to note that employers can also require their drivers to have a DOT HEALTH CARD. Some transportation companies require this documentation before they will allow employees to begin driving. 


Medical DOT Waivers

If a driver is medically unqualified under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, they may be able to obtain a waiver to drive a commercial vehicle, depending on the state and the reasons for disqualification. 


To obtain a medical waiver, a driver will be required to go through the full application process. This process is outlined in Subpart B of part 381 under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Guidelines. 


The driver will need to send a written request to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator. A review will be conducted and the driver will either receive a declination or approval letter. 


If the waiver is granted, the driver is required by law to carry it in the vehicle at all times. It is also important drivers educate themselves on any laws in states they may pass through. Ignorance of the law is not an acceptable reason for drivers not carrying a DOT card when required. 



What Is Involved in Obtaining a DOT CARD?

  • Commercial drivers need to be aware of the steps involved in obtaining a DOT medical exam and card. Being aware of the necessary steps is important for ensuring professional drivers have the necessary medical documentation to ensure they can continue to drive, by meeting the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. 
  • Many CDL drivers are confused about the process of obtaining a DOT MEDICAL CARD and may even be intimidated. By knowing what to expect from the steps, commercial drivers will be less stressed and will be prepared. The following offers extensive information on the steps that are involved in obtaining a DOT card. 


Scheduling the DOT Physical Examination


The first step in the process of obtaining a DOT medical card is to schedule a DOT exam with a licensed and certified medical provider. Years ago, any physician could conduct these examinations. In 2014, the laws changed. Now, all physicians performing DOT exams must be certified and registered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.



Before scheduling a DOT physical, drivers need to ensure their physician is properly registered and certified. Without this certification and registration, physicians cannot legally perform these required exams. 



The DOT Physical


The DOT physical is a thorough health examination. Drivers must pass this health examination, or they could be forced to give up their CDL licenses

The physician or medical examiner will check the driver thoroughly. They will perform testing to check for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. 



The examiner will perform urine tests and possibly blood tests. They will also carefully examine the driver’s medical history, to determine if they will pass the exam.  DOT exams are extensive and require a report to be filled out by the medical examiner.


Once the examination has been completed, the medical examiner will be required to submit a report to the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. If drivers pass the exam, they will receive a copy of their Medical Examiner’s Certificate, which meets all the requirements of the DOT medical card regulations. 


Follow-ups Every One to Two Years


Most CDL drivers are required to have a follow-up exam every two years, though some will need to be re-examined after one year, to renew their DOT cards. It is important to comply with the stipulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to ensure commercial drivers can safely operate their vehicles. 



How to Prepare for the DOT Physical


The DOT exam is a fairly straightforward examination, but there are some steps drivers can take to be better prepared. The following steps should help drivers to prepare for their DOT physical, so they are more likely to pass. 


  • It is important to avoid caffeine or any foods that may increase the driver’s blood pressure. Coffee, soda, and high amounts of sodium should be avoided before the exam because they can lead to false high blood pressure readings that could cause a driver to fail their exam. 
  • Drivers will need to be prepared to fill out an extensive medical history and provide information on any medication they take daily. It is wise to bring these medications to the exam appointment. 
  • It is also wise to attempt to relax as much as possible before the exam. High levels of stress and anxiety can cause blood pressure spikes. Undergoing the exam in a relaxed state is essential.


Penalties for Being Not-Certified


CDL truck drivers take a big risk when driving under a non-certified status. The penalties for not having a DOT card are serious. 

If drivers go through a weigh station or are pulled over by an officer, and fail to produce their DOT health card, they will be issued an out-of-service citation. With this situation can come hefty fees and sanctions. 


It is clear to see that avoiding following the rules and obtaining a DOT health card can be disastrous for professional drivers. To continue their careers, drivers must stay abreast of changing laws and ensure they are meeting the demands of each of the laws put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 




Seeking a DOT physical may seem like a daunting task, but it is really not difficult. It is important CDL drivers know the laws for their state and each of the states they travel through on the job. By following the above steps and heeding the information provided, professional drivers can obtain their DOT medical cards with ease. Be sure to check out NE DOT Physicals for your DOT Card in MA, we have a fast, efficient and affordable process to get you back on the road safely, and ASAP.