Is sleep apnea a disqualifier?

Sleep apnea does not necessarily disqualify you for medical certification. Treatment with a CPAP machine and some basic lifestyle changes can help you get a restful sleep and maintain your commercial driver’s license. Many drivers who have suffered fatigue for a long time , and then were diagnosed with sleep apnea and treated, report that they’ve felt like a new person since they’ve been on a CPAP machine.

You will need to bring a medical opinion letter from your treating physician before you can be considered for DOT medical certification.

Is narcolepsy a disqualifier?

Narcolepsy is a disqualifier regardless of treatment, because it poses a risk of EDS and may also bring on sudden muscular weakness.

What is EDS? Is EDS a disqualifier?

EDS stands for Excessive Daytime Somnolence or Sleepiness. Because fatigue and driver drowsiness are safety concerns, the medical examiner must rule out EDS before certifying. A driver who has EDS will be temporarily disqualified until the condition is being successfully treated. The medical examiner will want to see a medical opinion letter from the treating physician before issuing a medical card.

If I’m overweight do I have to have a sleep apnea test?

No. Being overweight, of itself, does not mean that you should be tested for sleep apnea. Overweight is an initial indicator for the medical examiner to make sure that other conditions aren’t present which may affect your ability to safely operate a CMV.

The medical examiner will evaluate your overall physical condition and health history. The medical examiner has a responsibility to have you tested for sleep apnea if he/she has reasonable suspicion that you may have sleep apnea. Many people suffer for years from sleep apnea and don’t know they have it until a doctor catches the symptoms.

Sleep apnea is not only associated with sleep deprivation. It’s also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and diabetes. The most serious complication is a severe form of congestive heart failure. Sleep apnea sufferers also have a 30% higher risk of heart attack or premature death than those unaffected.

Is there a BMI limit for commercial drivers to pass the DOT physical?

There are currently no set specifics on BMI measurement in the DOT regulations. However, companies may set their own policies and have their own standards for these indicators, which may disqualify you to drive for that particular company.

What does neck size have to do with the DOT physical exam?

Neck size, weight, and BMI are all just indicators that the medical examiner looks at to determine if you may have a condition such as sleep apnea that would impact your ability to safely drive a commercial vehicle now or for the period for which the medical card may be issued.  There are currently no set specifics on these measurements in the DOT regulations.

Other indicators of potential obstructive sleep apnea are enlarged tonsils and large tongue volume. Individuals with low muscle tone and soft tissue around the airway (e.g., because of obesity) and structural features that give rise to a narrowed airway, are at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

Because sleep apnea is associated with increased risk of other debilitating diseases, it’s the responsibility of the medical examiner to rule out suspicion of sleep apnea, for driver certification.

What does snoring have to do with the DOT physical exam?

Snoring, in combination with obesity, can be highly predictive of obstructive sleep apnea risk. That said, even the loudest of snorers may not have a breathing obstruction. The sign that is most suggestive of sleep apnea occurs when snoring stops. If both snoring and breathing stop while the person’s chest and body try to breathe, that is literally a description of an event called an ‘apnea’. When breathing starts again, there is typically a deep gasp and then the resumption of snoring.

For the DOT physical exam the medical examiner evaluates your overall physical condition and health history to determine if there are signs of a medical condition that may affect your ability to safely drive a CMV. If the medical examiner has reasonable suspicion that you have sleep apnea you may have to go for an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram before you can be further considered for certification.

I take Restoril for sleep. Will that be a problem for the DOT physical?

The medication, Restoril, may cause side effects: Hangover effect, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

These will all be questions the medical examiner is going to ask you about. This medication is usually used on a short term basis and not for a long term sleep aid. So it will depend on the type of driver you are and would be a serious consideration within the DOT examination.

You will need a medical opinion letter from your prescribing doctor explaining his reasoning for the use of this medication and why he feels it would be safe for you to drive a commercial motor vehicle OTR. Otherwise this could be a disqualifier for OTR drivers.