When you’re going through your driver training to become a HGV driver, you probably feel like there are a lot of different hoops you have to jump through. And to be honest, you would be right. That’s because HGV drivers have a lot of responsibility, not only to get their cargo to its destination safely and on time, but to ensure their driving doesn’t harm any other road users, or cause any kind of issues. Arguably, the biggest hurdle for aspiring HGV drivers looking to get or renew their license is the medical exam. But the DVLA requires all HGV drivers to be reasonably fit and healthy in order to legally operate any commercial vehicle on the roads. But if you’ve never gone through it before you might be a bit nervous, and wondering what it actually involves, and what you have to do to be medically signed off. Well, let us enlighten you!
Regardless of the type of HGV licence you’re studying for, you will be required to undergo a full medical examination. And once you’ve qualified, you will have to go through it again every 5 years, just to prove you are still fit and healthy. After all, a lot of things can change in 5 years! The HGV medical exam is split into 2 parts:
Discussion with your doctor: First, you’ll be interviewed by a doctor. This is your chance to discuss any existing medical conditions, and whether they are likely to impact your ability to drive safely. They’ll also go through your medical history in-depth to make sure everything is OK there.
Physical exam: Once they’re happy with your history, you will have a thorough physical exam. The doctor will check your vital signs, vision, reflexes etc. This usually takes around 30 minutes, and the doctor will be taking notes along the way. They will then fill in the official DVLA form, which will be submitted directly to the DVLA. You probably won’t see this, but you can request a copy from the DVLA if you want.
Both parts of your medical exam should be done in the same session, and can be done either by any NHS GP, or an approved private physician. The exam cost depends on the surgery or physician you chose – since the DVLA doesn’t mandate that this exam be provided free of charge. Many NHS GP’s will offer this for free, but some might charge you a nominal fee for it, so it’s worth checking with your surgery.
During the exam, they will check for a number of conditions and issues that could disqualify you from being able to drive safely, and so getting your HGV licence. The main things they look for are:
Impaired eyesight: Being able to see well, both at distance and up close is obviously a pretty important part of being a HGV driver! You will be required to read a number plate from a distance of 20 yards, either with or without glasses or contacts. If you do need glasses that isn’t necessarily an issue, but the prescription do need to be no higher than +8 in order to qualify, and your vision needs to be 160 degrees or above. If you’re not sure what your vision is like, it might be worth making an appointment with your optician before you start out on your training.
Neurological conditions: Some neurological conditions won’t present a problem, but others can have serious consequences for you if you’re in charge of a HGV. Your doctor will examine you and ask questions about things like epilepsy, seizures, blackouts, memory problems, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, narcolepsy and cataplexy, strokes, prior brains surgeries, or any chronic neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis – all of which can impact your ability to drive safely.
Mental health: Mental health might not seem like something that belongs on a physical, but it is critical to keeping you and others safe on the road. Your doctor will discuss all sorts of mental health issues like depression, hospitalisation for psychiatric issues, dementia, cognitive impairment etc.
Heart conditions: Any heart problems that aren’t being treated or controlled are going to be an immediate red flag for your doctor. That’s anything from angina to a stroke and even atrial fibrillation. If your condition is being managed properly then this shouldn’t cause any issues, but there are some exceptions – for example you can’t drive within 3 months of having major heart surgery.
Diabetes: diabetes is a very common illness, and affects around 9.5% of the population. So it’s not something that will disqualify you from becoming a HGV driver, as long as you are managing it properly. This means you need to demonstrate that you can keep it under control, including twice-daily glucose testing. If you have insulin-treated diabetes, you’ll also need to bring 3 months of your most recent glucose readings with you, stored on a personal reader and ready to produce.
Sleep disorders: One of the leading causes of serious accidents among HGV drivers is lack of sleep. So in order to keep you safe, your doctor will ask you about your sleep, looking for any symptoms of possible sleep disorders. You need to be really honest here. A sleep disorder isn’t necessarily an automatic disqualification, but it does need to be managed properly.
Alcohol and drug use: As you hopefully know, it’s illegal to operate any vehicle, including a HGV, with drugs or alcohol in your system. This means it’s almost impossible for a chronic alcoholic or drug user to gain or hold a HGV licence, and your doctor will check and test for signs of chronic drug and alcohol abuse.
At The HGV Training Centre, we guide you through every element of your training, including a medical exam. So we explain the whole process and walk you through it beforehand, and support you afterwards while you wait for the results. If you would like to know more, please get in touch with the team today.
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