Differences Between DOT Physical and Non-DOT Physical

Do you know that there are two types of physical exams that employees may undergo? DOT Physicals and Non-DOT Physicals are the two types of physical exams that employees may undergo, and they are similar in many ways. Understanding the difference is vital, especially if you are an employer, HR personnel, risk manager,  or owner operator. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between the two physical exams and what you need to know about them.1. DOT Physical

DOT Physical is mandated under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations and other DOT agencies. It is a physical exam that commercial motor vehicle drivers must undergo to legally operate on highways.

  1. DOT Physical

A DOT Physical exam is conducted by a certified medical examiner who follows a specific protocol to determine whether the driver is medically fit to operate a commercial vehicle. The exam includes a review of medical history, physical examination, and urinalysis. The focus is on identifying medical conditions that can affect the driver’s ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.

2. Non-DOT Physical

On the other hand, Non-DOT Physical is a medical examination that is not mandated by the government. It is typically conducted for employment purposes, such as pre-employment screening and annual check-ups. Non-DOT Physicals can vary depending on the employer’s needs, location, and industry.

A NonDOT Physical exam can include a review of medical history, physical examination, and urine testing. Employers may request additional tests, such as vision and hearing tests, to ensure that the employee can safely perform their job duties. Non-DOT Physicals aim to identify medical issues that may affect the employee’s ability to perform their job safely and effectively.

3. What to Expect During A DOT and NON DOT Physical

Physical examinations are a critical part of maintaining workplace safety and ensuring that employees are capable of performing their tasks effectively. These medical screenings can be classified into two main types: Department of Transportation (DOT) physicals and Non-DOT physicals. While they share a common goal of assessing an individual’s health status, they vary in terms of the standards and regulations they follow.

Whether you are an employer scheduling these exams or an employee preparing to undergo one, understanding what to expect during these physicals is essential. With three decades of experience in occupational health, we offer insights into what these examinations entail and how our technology makes the process seamless and reliable.

DOT Physical Exams

Administered by a licensed medical examiner, DOT physicals are federally mandated for commercial vehicle drivers to ensure they can meet the physical demands of their job. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the standards for these exams.

Medical History Review

Your DOT physical will start with a review of your medical history. You’ll be asked about past or present medical conditions, surgeries, medications, and any history of alcohol or substance abuse.

Vision and Hearing Tests

Vision and hearing capabilities are crucial for safe vehicle operation. Expect to undergo vision tests to assess your ability to see clearly at a distance and discern colors correctly. Hearing tests check your ability to perceive a ‘forced whisper’ from a specific distance without the use of hearing aids.

Blood Pressure and Pulse Rate Assessment

Safe driving requires cardiovascular health. Your examiner will check your blood pressure and pulse rate to identify any signs of hypertension or irregular heartbeat.


A urinalysis is part of the DOT physical to check for underlying medical conditions such as diabetes. This is different from a drug screen which may or may not be needed depending if this is for pre-employment or recertification.

Physical Examination

The core of the DOT physical is a thorough examination of your body. This includes checking your:

  • General appearance for signs of physical or psychological conditions
  • Eyes, throat, mouth, and ears
  • Heart and vascular health through heart rate and rhythm, and presence of murmurs or vascular diseases
  • Lungs and chest, not including breast examination
  • Abdomen for any abnormalities
  • Musculoskeletal system for any deformities or limitations
  • Neurological health, including reflexes, coordination, and balance

Fit for Duty Determination

Based on the findings from the examination, the medical examiner will determine if you are fit for duty. If you meet all the health criteria, you’ll be issued a DOT medical certificate, which is typically valid for up to 24 months.

Non-DOT Physical Exams

Non-DOT physicals are not federally regulated but can be just as thorough, depending on company policy or job requirements. These exams are typically tailored to assess fitness for specific job roles and may vary significantly between industries.

Medical History Evaluation

Similar to the DOT physical, you’ll begin with a detailed medical history discussion. This helps to identify any health concerns that could interfere with job performance.

Physical Examination

Though it may not be as standardized as the DOT physical, you can expect a comprehensive physical examination, including checks of your:

  • Vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure
  • Vision and hearing capabilities
  • Musculoskeletal fitness, assessing your ability to perform physical tasks
  • Neurological functions to ensure proper reflexes and coordination

Additional Screenings

Based on the specific job duties, you might undergo additional screenings such as:

  • Respiratory function tests for jobs involving exposure to respiratory irritants
  • Lift tests for positions requiring manual labor
  • Flexibility and strength assessments specific to the demands of the job

Company-Specific Requirements

Non-DOT physicals can include company-specific health and fitness requirements. Employers may request additional tests or certifications based on the nature of the work.

4. FMCSA Clearinghouse

The FMCSA has launched a new clearinghouse system that will not affect both DOT and Non-DOT Physicals. The clearinghouse is an online database that will contain information about commercial drivers’ drug and alcohol violations. Employers must conduct queries on each driver they employ at least once a year to ensure they are authorized to operate commercial vehicles.  However, DOT Physicals are not reported to the Clearinghouse.

Employers are required to report all violations of drug and alcohol regulations, and medical examiners are required to enter the driver’s drug and alcohol testing results. This information is critical in identifying drivers that pose a risk to public safety and ensuring that they do not operate commercial motor vehicles.

4. Workplace Screening Intelligence

Employers, especially those who conduct Non-DOT Physicals, can benefit from Workplace Screening Intelligence (WSI). WSI employs a system that integrates electronically the ability to order, drug and alcohol testing, Non DOT Physicals and DOT Physicals for employees. The system allows employers to manage all employee screenings in one place, reducing administrative burden and ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations. In conclusion, DOT Physical and Non-DOT Physical are two different types of physical exams that employees may undergo. DOT Physical is mandated by the government and applies to drivers of commercial motor vehicles, while Non-DOT Physical is not mandated by the government and varies depending on the employer’s needs. Understanding the difference is vital for employers, HR personnel, risk managers, owner operators, as it ensures compliance with state and federal regulations. Workplace Screening Intelligence help employers manage employee screenings and ensure compliance with regulations, reducing administrative burden and promoting public safety.  If you need assistance ordering a physical, contact our Support Team today at 844-573-8378 or Support@workplacescreening.com