Can I Still be a Truck Driver if I Have a Medical Condition?
Trucking is a demanding career; long hours on the road, little sleep, and sitting for over 15 hours a day make it even more challenging. So, truckers must maintain the most rigorous health standards to ensure their own safety and that of others on the road.
All commercial drivers in the United States must complete a physical examination (DOT physical) to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). These medical exams screen for many different health conditions that could impact a driver’s ability to operate a commercial vehicle safely.
Medical Conditions Addressed in a DOT Physical
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees the qualifications of professional truck drivers. It has strict guidelines that drivers must meet to be able to operate a commercial vehicle safely. In addition, the agency has listed dozens of medical conditions that could disqualify a driver from obtaining or keeping a CDL. Some of these conditions include:
- Heart conditions
- Diabetes (Type I & Type II)
- Sleep Apnea
- Hearing problems
- Vision problems
- Drug & Alcohol Use
Can You Still Be a Truck Driver if You Have a Medical Condition?
Yes, there are exemption policies for specific medical conditions that are treatable or manageable.
DOT Exemption Program
Currently, FMCSA has an exemption program for drivers with diabetes, vision problems, hearing problems, or seizures. In addition, there are other conditions like hypertension, proteinuria, and hyperlipidemia that may be eligible for exemption depending on the discretion of your doctor. Drivers with a history of these conditions can apply for a DOT exemption.
To apply for an exemption, you will need to provide medical documentation from your healthcare provider certifying that you can drive safely. FMSCA reviews exemptions individually and has the final say as to whether a driver will receive an exemption.
Who Is Eligible for DOT Exemptions and How Long Are They Good For?
Drivers can apply for an exemption for three months, one year, or two years. Exemptions can be renewed as needed.
Temporary waiver (valid for three months):
According to updated FMCSA guidelines, drivers with diabetes are eligible for a DOT exemption as long as their condition is managed and under control with regular monitoring of blood sugar levels. Applicant drivers have to bring HbA1c test results and 3 months’ electronic glucose monitoring records to your DOT medical exam.
A 3-month temporary waiver allows drivers to operate a commercial vehicle while working to meet the requirements for exemption status.
Permanent Exemption (valid for 1 or 2 years depending on condition):
Drivers who are diagnosed with diabetes and meet the criteria for a permanent exemption may be allowed to drive commercial vehicles for 1 year instead of 2 years. Other conditions like vision, hearing problems or seizures are also eligible for a 2-year exemption.
If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, it’s always best to address the concerns with your healthcare provider. They can explain the specifics of your situation and help you regain your health and career.