Everyone knows that being healthy enough to drive safely is important. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets medical standards that most truck drivers in the United States are required to meet in order to drive as a professional. The driver medical certification screenings are not intended to serve as a replacement for a regular checkup from a doctor. The information presented in this section should serve as a basic guide for what these medical standards are and what they are not. For additional FMCSA-specific resources, visit the FMCSA Resources page.
To find a certified medical examiner in your region, visit the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
What Medical Certification Is Not
Even if you pass the medical certification, you should have an annual checkup from a doctor. This is because the medical certification is a basic check to see if there are any problems serious enough to make you an unsafe driver. A normal checkup with your doctor can help you identify smaller problems and help you live a healthier and more comfortable life. Also, many medical problems develop slowly over time and may not be caught by normal driver medical screenings.
What Medical Certification Is
FMCSA’s medical certification is meant to ensure drivers are healthy enough to safely operate a heavy truck and perform their day to day duties. Following is a brief description of each part of the certification process. This is meant 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. So 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 at the FMCSA’s Driver Medical Fitness for Duty website. We’ve also provided links to additional useful FMCSA resources in the FMCSA Resources section of this website.
The purpose of the vision screening is to make sure your vision is good enough to see in the center and sides of the field of view, as well as to make sure you can see both near and far objects. The basic exam will check your ability to see clearly, your peripheral (side of your field of view) vision, and your color vision. If you have had an eye injury or certain diseases, additional tests may be required.
The purpose of the hearing check is to make sure you are able to clearly hear safety-related sounds, such as a warning buzzer or horn. To test this, the basic exam will be a forced whisper test and/or a test using an audiometer. You may receive both or just one of these tests. The forced whisper test is to see if you can hear someone speaking in a whisper near your ear. The audiometer test uses a machine to see 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.
High blood pressure puts you at a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure, all of which can put you at risk of a crash. Unfortunately, truck drivers are more likely to have high blood pressure than the average American. The good news is that high blood pressure can be treated by medication or even by things as simple as changing what you eat and getting a bit more exercise. Your blood pressure screening will check your blood pressure and look for any other signs of high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, 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 the driver losing control of the truck and crashing. During this part of the medical exam, you will be asked about your current health, your medical history and your family’s medical history.
Breathing well is very important for safe driving. 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, such as asthma, sleep apnea, or emphysema. During the exam, you will be asked about your medical history, your family’s medical history, and your current state of health. The examiner will listen to your breathing and look for other signs of breathing problems.
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 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 mellitus (or just, “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. This 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, your use of drugs and alcohol (since many people with psychological problems abuse drugs and alcohol). Your behavior, dress, and responses will also be evaluated during the medical exam.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Drugs and alcohol can severely affect your ability to drive a truck, even in small amounts. 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.
Medications That Can Affect Driving
Some medicines, even those prescribed by a doctor, can make you unsafe on the road. There are three types of medicines: prescription, over the counter (OTC), and supplements or herbal medicines. While it is important to let your doctor know that you are a professional driver when you get a prescription, 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.
The driver medical certification is meant to ensure you are minimally medically qualified. It is not a replacement for a checkup from your doctor. You should make sure that you are going to a doctor for an annual checkup even if you pass your medical screening.