If you're pursuing a commercial driver's license (CDL), you may be excited to begin your new career transporting heavy equipment, merchandise, or even food from one place to another. While a career as a CDL driver can be lucrative and enjoyable, there are a battery of tests and examinations you'll need to complete before earning your CDL and therefore gaining the legal ability to operate semi trailers for a living. Not all of these tests are based on your knowledge or ability -- one of the most important examinations (and one which must be repeated at least every 2 years as long as you hold your CDL) is a medical one. Read on to learn more about the medical exam administered under the auspices of the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) and what you can do to improve both your health and your odds of passing this examination with flying colors.
What is the DOT medical exam?
Because driving a multi-ton truck and trailer over interstate highways can carry a bit more risk (both to yourself and your fellow drivers) than driving a smaller vehicle, the DOT has determined that commercial driver's licenses should not be issued to individuals suffering from health conditions that could potentially lead to a stroke, heart attack, seizure, or another dangerous medical condition while behind the wheel. These medical examinations are also designed to help weed out drivers who suffer from substance abuse issues or other conditions (like cataracts) that could impede safe driving.
This medical examination doesn't need to be performed by a doctor employed by the DOT -- you should be able to have your primary care physician, osteopath, or even chiropractor submit documents to the DOT certifying that you are in good enough physical health to safely operate a heavy commercial vehicle.
Click here for more about taking the DOT medical examination or do an online search.
What should you do to ensure you are medically cleared for your CDL?
Some relatively common ailments that may raise red flags with the DOT include high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both these conditions can significantly raise your risk of heart attack and stroke, and spending hours per day in a seated position while driving can sometimes lead to blood clots even for those who don't have high blood pressure. As a result, doing what you can to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels before undergoing a physical exam should improve your odds of approval.
If you don't have much time to prepare for this examination, there are still a few things you can do to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol more quickly. Reducing (or eliminating) your consumption of salt and increasing your consumption of water can help flush excess fluids from your system, lowering your blood pressure. Increasing your consumption of healthy fats (like those derived from avocado, nuts, and seeds) can also go a long way toward raising the amount of "healthy" cholesterol and lowering the amount of "bad" cholesterol in your blood.
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