Can Professional Drivers Be Handicap and Receive A CDL?

Professional drivers must receive a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) when hauling commercial loads while operating large and heavy vehicles or transporting many people and hazardous materials.

To receive a Class A CDL to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) over 10,000 pounds, you need to pass a DOT physical, which ensure that drivers are in good health to do their job safely.

In previous articles, we discuss common disqualifications and high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about physical disabilities?

Well, the answer depends on many different factors.

What is a DOT Physical Exam?

First, let’s cover the basics.

A DOT physical, also called a CDL physical, is a test of your general health, mental and emotional well-being and is a requirement that is mandated by federal law for anyone planning to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

The federal regulations in §391.11 Subpart B require all drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to pass a physical to obtain a DOT medical card.

A DOT medical card is considered relevant and valid for up to 24 months but could be limited to 3 months, 6 months, or a year.


A nurse will see you and the following will be performed: 

  • height and weight
  • eye exam
  • hearing exam
  • blood pressure and pulse
  • oxygen saturation
  • temperature
  • body mass index, and
  • neck circumference

Next, you will see the medical examiner for your physical and determination. If any additional information is needed, you will be given instructions and will have 45 days to have the documentation faxed or brought in for review.

Can drivers have a disability to pass a DOT physical?

The short answer is yes.

Today, many carriers hire and accommodate professional drivers with medical issues, loss of limbs, and more.

During the DOT physical exam, if a medical condition is identified the examiner decides if the condition is serious enough to prevent you from receiving a medical card, resuming your driving tasks, or requiring treatment.

If you have a missing or impaired limb, you will need a Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate.

The Skill Performance Evaluation program is for CMV drivers who drive in interstate commerce. The SPE certification allows drivers with missing or impaired limbs to drive CMVs across state lines if they have been fitted with (and are wearing) the right prosthetic device, and the driver can demonstrate the ability to drive the truck safely by completing on- and off-road activities.

If the driver passes the driving test, he or she will receive an SPE certificate.

Over the years, FMCSA has granted more than 3,000 SPE certificates to truck drivers who have shown that they can drive safely on the nation’s highways. 

Applying for a DOT exemption for a medical waiver

The FMCSA has identified certain conditions that disqualify drivers from operating CMVs, which include:

  • hypertension
  • respiratory dysfunction
  • diabetes
  • vision impairment
  • epilepsy, and
  • mental disorders

If you have one of these conditions, and both you and your medical examiner believe that you’re well enough to drive, you can apply for one of the FMCSA’s Driver Exemption Programs. Once your application is submitted, you can expect a decision within 180 days.

According to 49 CFR Part 381.300, “an exemption is temporary regulatory relief from one or more FMCSR given to a person or class of persons subject to the regulations, or who intend to engage in an activity that would make them subject to the regulations.”

The exemption provides the person or carrier with relief from the regulations for up to 5 years, and may be renewed, upon request, for subsequent 5-year periods.

But exemptions can only be pursued for certain regulations, including Part 391 ‘Qualifications of Drivers’.

FMCSA also allows exemption requests for vision, hearing, and seizure medical issues, which you can apply for here.

Below are the steps for an exemption request:

  1. Send a written request (typed or handwritten letter) to:

Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001

In this letter, you must identify the person or class of persons who would be covered by the exemption, with all of the following details:

  • Your name, job title, mailing address, and daytime phone number;
  • The name of the individual or motor carrier that would be responsible for the use or operation of CMVs;
  • Principal place of business for the motor carrier (street address, city, state, and zip code); and
  • USDOT identification number for the motor carrier

The written statement must also provide the following details:

  • Describe the reason the exemption is needed, including the time period during which it is needed;
  • Identify the regulation from which you would like to be exempt;
  • Provide an estimate of the total number of drivers and CMVs that would be operated under the terms and conditions of the exemption;
  • Assess the safety impacts the exemption may have;
  • Explain how you would ensure that you could achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be obtained by complying with the regulation; and
  • Describe the impacts you could experience if the exemption is not granted by the FMCSA

Lastly, your application must include a copy of all research reports, technical papers, and other publications and documents you reference.

  • FMCSA will review and prepare your application for a Federal Register notice requesting public comment on your application.
  • After a review of the comments, which can take 30 days or longer to receive, FMCSA will make a recommendation to the Administrator to either grant or deny the exemption, and a notice of the Administrator’s decision will be published in the Federal Register.

Why choose CNS for my DOT physical?

CNS offers DOT physical exams at our location in Lititz, PA with our Certified Medical Examiner (CME), and we also have mobile DOT physicals available. We know your time and money is valuable, which is why we have flexible availability during the week and the weekend.

We are efficient in scheduling appointments and respect your time, preventing you from having long wait times in crowded waiting rooms. We also have competitive rates, and we understand your budget and operating costs as a driver and/or company.

The CNS Occupational Medicine staff is experienced and friendly, and our CMEs are professionals that will effectively evaluate your status.

For more information, contact us at 800.551.9816 or

Please be advised that all articles, blogs and written material are not intended to replace the advice of a physician.

Questions about Occupational Healthcare or our Mobile Health Clinics?

Our Occupational Healthcare Specialists are here to help!

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