It’s important to be healthy enough to drive safely. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets medical standards that most truck drivers in the U.S. are required to meet to drive as a professional. The screenings should not replace your regular checkups from a doctor. The information presented in this section should serve as a basic guide for what the FMCSA’s medical standards are and what they are not.
To find a certified medical examiner in your region, visit the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
FMCSA’s medical certification is meant to ensure that drivers are healthy enough to safely operate a heavy truck and perform their day-to-day duties. Even if you pass the medical certification, you should still have an annual checkup with your doctor. Following is a brief description of each part of the certification process. This is intended to give you an idea of what each screening is meant to accomplish and what you can probably expect during the exam. Any unusual results may require you to have further testing.
Note: There are waivers that apply to some of the screenings. If you do have a condition, such as vision problems, insulin-treated diabetes, or missing/impaired limbs, there may be a program to allow you to continue driving with proper medical treatment. You can find more information on this topic on FMCSA’s Driver Medical Fitness for Duty webpage.
The purpose of the vision screening is to make sure your vision is good enough to see clearly when driving. The test will check your ability to see clearly, your peripheral vision, and your color vision. If you have an eye injury or certain diseases, additional tests may be required.
The purpose of the hearing check is to make sure you can clearly hear safety-related sounds. The tests you may be given will check how well you can hear someone whispering in your ear and if you can hear certain tones at certain volumes. If you have had injuries to the ear, ear canal, or have other specific medical conditions, additional tests may be required.
Truck drivers are more likely to have high blood pressure than the average American. If you have high blood pressure, you may be required to be medically certified more frequently or take other medical tests.
The purpose of cardiovascular screening is to see if you have any cardiovascular problems that increase your risk of losing control of the truck and crashing. During this part of the medical exam, you will be asked about your current health, your medical health, and your family’s medical history.
Respiratory problems keep you from breathing as well as you should and can make you more likely to pass out or lose control of your truck. The respiratory check in your medical exam looks for any issues that can lead to breathing problems. During the exam, you will be asked about your medical history, your family’s medical history, and your current state of health.
Driving a truck takes your full attention and some neurological problems can take that away from you. The purpose of the neurological check is to ensure that you are able to think and react quickly enough to drive a truck. During the exam, you may be asked about your current and past health (including headaches, seizures, and head injuries) and what medicines you take. Your coordination, balance, movement, and reflexes will also be checked.
The purpose of musculoskeletal screening is to make sure you do not have any physical impairment that prevents you from safely driving and performing other work duties. During this part of the exam, you will be asked if you have any muscular diseases, have lost any limbs or appendages, have limited use of arms, fingers, or feet, or have any spinal or back problems. A physical evaluation will check to see that you have full use of your arms, legs, fingers, and feet, and will make sure that you have a healthy back and spine.
Diabetes is a condition that affects almost 8% of Americans. Many people don’t know that they have diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious health problems such as seizures and passing out while driving. However, when controlled with good medical care, people with diabetes can safely drive a truck. During this part of the medical exam your blood sugar will be checked.
Being a healthy driver requires a healthy mind. Having a healthy mind means that you need good judgment skills and the ability to make the right call when driving your truck. Psychological disorders can interfere with this ability. This part of the medical exam will ask about your mental health history and your use of drugs and alcohol. Your behavior, dress, and responses will be evaluated during the medical exam.
Drugs and alcohol, even in small amounts, can severely affect your ability to drive a truck. The purpose of this part of the exam is to make sure you are free of drugs and alcohol. During this process, you will be asked about your use of drugs and alcohol.
Some medicines, even those prescribed by a doctor, can make you unsafe on the road. There are three types of medications: prescription, over the counter (OTC), and supplements or herbal medicines. The medical screening exam will also ask about what medicines you take. The effect of your medicines on your ability to drive safely will be assessed.