Even though some of the rules tend to vary by state of licensure, all interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders are expected to provide a current copy of their Medical Examiner’s Certificate (DOT Card) to their state’s driver’s licensing agency.

Note that this process known as medical card self-certification, is a very crucial step in ensuring that drivers meet the physical requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Getting and renewing your DOT Card may seem involved when you let it expire, so it should be done on time at avoid consequences. The exact consequences of letting your DOT Card expire vary by state.

Normally, some states will suspend your commercial driving privileges. Some states suspend your privileges immediately, while others give you a grace period to renew your certificate.

In some states, if you take too long to renew your DOT card, you may have to go through the entire testing process for a CDL again. For instance, in Indiana, if your DOT card expires for more than one year, you must retest. In Kansas, you must retest if it is expired for more than 90 days.

However, states don’t have an expired DOT medical card fine. If the certificate expires, though, you may have to retest or reinstate your license and there may be costs involved in that process.

But immediately you pass your medical exam and file it with the state, it is advisable you keep the original copy with you for at least 10 days whenever you drive. After that, you’re not required to carry your certificate, but you may want to do so just to be on the safe side. If you took a special skill assessment to obtain your certificate, you do need to keep that with you any time you drive.

Steps to Renew Your DOT Card after it Expires

Note that the process for application is the same in every state: whether renewing, applying for or changing your DOT card, you’ll first select which type of commercial operation you will be performing with your license, then you will be asked to submit yourself for a new DOT physical exam. A DOT physical exam has many different components. Here are the six things to expect during a DOT physical.1

  1. Medical History

Whether you are renewing or acquiring a new card, during a DOT physical, the driver will need to provide extensive background on their medical history, including past surgeries, medications taken, and history of health conditions. Nonetheless, it is always important to be honest when providing health history as there could be repercussions later on if the correct health history is not provided.

  1. Vitals Testing and Physical Examination

Have it in mind that a large portion of the DOT physical is testing vitals. Testing includes pulse, height, weight, and blood pressure. The FMCSA also requires urinalysis, which looks at the protein, blood, and sugar in a urine sample to rule out underlying medical problems.

  1. Vision Testing

Coupled with the other general testing above, the FMSCA requires vision testing to ensure drivers are meeting the standard of at least 20/40 vision acuity in each eye with or without correction (glasses or contacts) and at least 70° field of vision in horizontal meridian measured in each eye (the area of visibility for each eye’s line of sight).

  1. Hearing Testing

Hearing testing is another critical test that is needed to pass a DOT physical. This is more or less tested through a whisper test, a test in which the examiner will record the distance from the driver at which a forced whispered voice can be heard. This test can also be evaluated through an audiometric test. An audiometric test is a way to measure the ability to hear sounds at different frequencies to determine if the driver has experienced hearing loss.

  1. Physical Examination

Also note that a physical examination is required and the examiner will have to evaluate general physical appearance for things such as obesity and other medical conditions, and then examine the various body systems, including skin, lungs, the neurological system, and more.

  1. Drug Screen

Even though it might not part of the DOT physical exam, the DOT also requires a drug screen which can usually be completed at the same time as the physical examination.

  1. Self-Certification

Once the test has been done and the medical certificate is issued, drivers need to update their record with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the state in which they live and hold their CDL. This allows each state, as well as, motor carriers to track and make sure the drivers are medically qualified to drive. Each state is different, but the best way to self-certify is to physically take the new medical card to the DMV, they will update the record and it will show on the driver’s Motor Vehicle Record (MVR). Irrespective of how often a driver gets a new med card, the most recent medical card is the valid card, and the driver must carry that card and self-certify with that card. The driver has up to 14 days from when his/her last medical card expires to self-certify with their new medical card, otherwise their driver’s license will be downgraded.


If you are or employ a CDL driver who allows their DOT Card expire, it could cause the driver or carrier to receive a serious violation. The driver’s CDL could also be downgraded, meaning the driver would no longer hold a commercial driver’s license. This downgrade will happen within 60 days of the medical certification expiring. Drivers with a downgraded CDL could result in violations and fines for the carrier, whether the issue is discovered through an audit or at the roadside. If a driver’s DOT Card is about to expire, the driver must have a new medical examination and obtain a new medical certificate. This medical certificate should be provided to the Department of Revenue.

Ajaero Tony Martins