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8 CDL Disqualifying Medical Conditions

02/18/2021 07:41

Truck drivers who want to transport large goods across state lines need to undergo a few different steps before they can do so, as instructed by the Department of Transportation (DOT). A commercial driver’s license is one necessity that many truck drivers need to do their job. To obtain a CDL, you need to undergo a few different tests, including a physical examination, a pre-employment drug screening, a Motor Vehicle Records search, and a background check. There are also medical conditions that can keep you from getting your license. Here are the different CDL disqualifying medical conditions that truck drivers should be aware of, along with some steps you can take to overcome them.

DOT Physical Examination

Before we get into the different CDL disqualifying medical conditions, you need to know about the physical examinations that are required by the DOT. Truck driving can be far more physically demanding than many people may realize, so as with many other professions, truck drivers must undergo a physical examination in order to be cleared for work. In this examination, a doctor will ensure that you are fit enough to drive and will determine whether you have any conditions that might disqualify you from getting a CDL.

1.      Heart Conditions

The first type of medical condition that may disqualify you from becoming a truck driver is one related to the heart. Heart attacks, chest pain, and other forms of pain may indicate an underlying heart condition. Having a heart condition as a truck driver makes you vulnerable to more health risks, which is why proper treatment needs to come first before you can return to the road.

2.      Epilepsy

Truck drivers with epilepsy or a similar condition could be disqualified from a long haul. This is mainly due to MSCA regulations and the fact that being vulnerable to seizures presents a great risk to the trucker themself, as well as other drivers on the road. The good news is that if you have a handle on your epilepsy or a related condition, you can be exempt and may be able to get back on the road by submitting an FMSCA application.

3.      Vertigo

Vertigo is another condition that may disqualify someone from getting a CDL. Vertigo or issues related to the inner ear can have a major impact on someone’s driving ability because these conditions lead to trouble with balance. Certain conditions, such as Meniere’s disease, can also lead to unpredictability, which can affect a driver’s performance in a negative way.

4.      Vision or Hearing Loss

Being on the road requires you to be mindful of your surroundings, which means you must pay attention to visual and auditory cues. This is why someone who experiences vision or hearing loss might not be able to get a commercial driver’s license. Truck drivers must be able to take in and process visual and auditory stimuli quickly in order to practice safety on the road during a long haul.

5.      Diabetes

In certain instances, having diabetes can also keep you from getting a CDL. However, having diabetes doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting a license.  Make it a priority to monitor the condition through medication and diet, as this will put you in a better position to perform all the tasks that truck drivers must complete.

6.      Hypertension

In addition to diabetes, hypertension can cause setbacks that may result in disqualification for a CDL. For example, if an individual’s blood pressure reaches dangerous levels that fall under Stage 3, the driver may be at risk of a stroke, which can lead to CDL ineligibility. As with the other conditions on this list, individuals who can successfully manage and receive treatment for hypertension may eventually qualify for a license.

7.      Respiratory

A truck driver can also fail to get a CDL if they are diagnosed with a respiratory condition such as emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, or sleep apnea. A driver with a respiratory condition may find it harder to operate a semi-truck for long periods of time, which is why the DOT may consider this medical condition a concern for individuals who are applying for a CDL.

8.      Drug Use and Abuse

Finally, individuals who routinely use drugs (even legal or prescribed drugs) can be disqualified from the chance to get a CDL. Per DOT guidelines, under no circumstances may a truck driver be under the influence of drugs while operating a vehicle. Companies may administer drug tests to their drivers in order to ensure safe passage for the long haul. Truck drivers can be tested before they are hired, during the course of their employment, in instances where there is suspicion of drug use, or in cases of random testing. Typically, truck drivers will get tested for drugs such as: 

  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  •  Methamphetamines
  • Opiates
  • PCP

A history of alcohol abuse can also prevent someone from getting a CDL. To ensure you comply with the various regulations in place regarding drug use, join Labworks USA as your DOT drug and alcohol testing consortium.


While there is a laundry list of conditions that can keep you from getting a commercial driver’s license, certain situations may be considered an exemption. A medical examiner can determine whether you are fit to operate a truck and may allow you to get a CDL even if you do have a disqualifying medical condition. If you have a medical condition that is exempt by a medical professional, you must apply to the FMSCA to get an official exemption so you can start or continue trucking.


If you do not pass a medical examination and fail to get a CDL, it’s not the end of the world. A disqualification doesn’t last forever, though it can keep you off the road temporarily. Depending on the medical condition that led to your disqualification, you can undergo another examination in the future. Eventually, you may pass the requirements to get a CDL.  

Taking certain medications, undergoing treatment, staying active, eating a nutritional diet, and making other healthy lifestyle changes are all things that truck drivers can easily overlook, but they’re vital to their duties. Truck drivers have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, especially given their unique working environment of spending hours on the road. Putting your health first is never a bad thing. Being aware of the different medical conditions that can prevent you from doing your job is an important thing to know as a truck driver. Hopefully, this list offers a good starting place as you seek to either start or continue your career in truck driving. 

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