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.
Is There a Grace Period for Expired DOT Medical Card?
No. In the United States, there is no grace period for expired DOT medical cards. But CDL holders with DOT medical cards must revive their cards in the time they were approved. If the card was released on July 15, 2022, the bearer has until July 31, 2022, to recertify it.
You could have some leeway relying on when your card must have been authorized, but you must complete your DOT renewal as soon as you can.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
DOT Medical Card FAQ
Is a DOT Physical Required?
You must undergo a DOT physical if the following implied:
- You move potentially hazardous materials
- You drive a truck that can transport 15 people upwards
- You are compensated for driving a vehicle that seats over eight people
- You drive a vehicle that has a gross combined weight of more than 10,000 pounds.
How Do You Obtain a DOT Physical?
DOT Physicals will only be conducted by FMCSA-certified medical practitioners. Here you can look for a licensed medical examiner. Medical examiners that are licensed may be the following:
- Doctors of medicine
- Doctors of osteopathy
- Physician assistants
- Chiropractor doctors
- Advanced practice nurses.
How do I Prepare for a DOT Physical?
The DOT exam is a medical examination to guarantee that you are physically fit, to keep operating such a commercial truck. If you are overweight, trying to recoup from a larger health problem, or have a serious medical condition that is being handled by a doctor, you should make extra preparations.
Whether you’ll have to make any modifications or carry anything along, your CDL DOT physical depends on your present situation and state of health.
If you are presently dealing with any medical problems, ensure your prescriptions and drugs are up to date, that you have lately had a vision test and that you are wearing effective remedial eyewear, and that your hearing is in good working order, if you struggle with hearing impairment.
Anyone preparing for their DOT Physical should avoid processed foods, liquor, and tobacco to guarantee they are in perfect condition at the period of their physical.
What should I bring?
- If your exam is being performed by a new doctor, bring your hospital documents with you
- Documents from any professionals you consult, including a sleep apnea specialist
- If you have diabetes or a similar condition, ensure you provide your recent laboratory results
- If you need goggles, corrective lenses, or assistive devices to drive, bring them with you
- Get a record of any prescription medications you take, such as the daily dosage and frequency of administration
- You should also carry the DOT Physical medical examination summary report with you, in order to fill it out at home before you arrive.
What Happens If Your DOT Physical Fails?
Failing the DOT physical means you have to start making several lifestyle modifications and enhance your health before getting back on the highway.
Keep in mind that perhaps the DOT physical isn’t intended to throw you off guard; it examines your general health and takes into account whether you might have any health incident in the approaching future which might adversely impact someone as well as others’ safeness. If you screw up a DOT physical, consult a physician to have your health back on course, so you can resume driving.
What Is the Physical Cost?
The DOT physical fee depends on where you obtain it, and whether you pay for it yourself or if your employer covers part of the cost. However, the physical costs are between $85 and $150.
DOT Examination Results
When your exam is finished, your examiner will select one of the choices for your conclusions. If you pass, they will verify that you comply with the requirements for a two-year certificate or that you fulfill the criteria but requires regular monitoring.
If you fail, the examiner could select “does not meet standards.” The examiner might pick “determination pending” or “incomplete examination” in some instances.
What Conditions Preclude You From Obtaining a DOT Card?
- Heart conditions that are unregulated or volatile
- Seizure disorders or epilepsy
- Meniere’s disease is a dizziness-causing inner ear disorder
- Diabetes that is unregulated
- High blood pressure that is unregulated
- Uncorrectable vision impairment
- Hearing loss that is irreversible
- Marijuana use, even if prescribed
- Illegal substance use
- Utilization of oxygen therapy
- Several respiratory ailments
- Protein in urine might imply kidney disease.
Several of these ailments will be at the healthcare examiner’s discretion to determine whether or not you meet the criteria.
For specific situations, you might well be able to acquire an exempt status or consent form from the FMCSA. You might be debarred if a medical condition wouldn’t be under supervision. You could as well reapply for certification when you are capable of resolving a dismissible ailment.
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.