How to Stay Compliant Using ELDs in Texas

April 28, 2021

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Key Takeaways

Texas is a major trucking epicenter in the U.S. As the second-largest state—by population and area—with many major ports, it is a critical link in the nation’s freight system. In this guide, we will take a look at motor carrier compliance, specifically in regard to ELDs in Texas.

In Texas alone, the trucking industry employs one in 16 people and moves 1.2 billion tons of freight yearly. Combining large volumes of goods and products with commercial demands means transportation and logistics can get complex. The regulation of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) is needed to ensure consistent safety standards among drivers. And adhering to government safety regulations is essential for continuous operations. Many companies look to technology to help their fleet meet and maintain compliance standards efficiently and effectively. One way is with electronic logging devices (ELD).

In this guide, we’ll look at motor carrier compliance with the use of ELDs in Texas.

What is the ELD mandate?

The ELD mandate stems from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century bill, more commonly referred to as MAP-21, which Congress enacted in 2012.  MAP-21 included a provision directing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to develop a rule mandating that drivers of commercial motor vehicles use ELDs to comply with their Hours of Service requirements. 

The overall intent of the mandate is to ensure that commercial drivers have a safe work environment, to create an easier system to track and manage records of duty status (RODS), and to increase safety of commercial vehicles.

While it went into effect in 2017, interstate commercial vehicle owners-operators and fleet managers had until December 2019 to transition without penalty. Now, all commercial vehicles subject to Hours of Service (HOS) regulations operating in the U.S. must use an FMCSA-registered ELD. Previously, companies used automatic onboard recorders (AOBRDs) and electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs) to log these hours. However, ELDs provide much more accuracy because they connect directly to engines, meaning usage and logs cannot be falsified.

Click here for a deeper dive into the mandate.

Texas Hours of Service overview

Before digging into ELDs, it’s good to know about interstate versus intrastate regulations. Like most states, the Texas Department of Safety based their legislation on federal HOS rules with local adaptations. These policies, or intrastate regulations, are for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who operate and drive within Texas state lines. Let’s looks at some of the HOS differences:

Drive maximum

  • Interstate (Federal Code): 11 hours

  • Intrastate (Texas Code): 12 hours

Total shift maximum

  • Interstate (Federal Code): 14 hours

  • Intrastate (Texas Code): 15 hours

Minmum off-duty times

  • Interstate (Federal Code): 10 consecutive hours after completing 11 hours driving or 14 hours on-duty. Drivers must also take a 30-minute break every 8 hours.

  • Intrastate (Texas Code): 8 consecutive hours after completing 12 hours driving or 15 hours on-duty.

Maximum hours weekly

  • Interstate (Federal Code): 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days, as long as there is a 34 hour rest period in between.

  • Intrastate (Texas Code): 70 hours in seven days as long as there is a 34 hour rest period in between.

Penalties for violating drive time maximums

  • Interstate (Federal Code): Driver placed out-of-service for 10 hours or until not in violation.

  • Intrastate (Texas Code): Driver placed out-of-service for 8 hours or until not in violation.

As you can see, Texas intrastate regulations allow for more leeway for truckers than federal regulations. There are also some differences in the sleeper berth rules

Texas drivers can accumulate the equivalent of 8 consecutive hours off duty by combining at least 8 consecutive hours off duty and sleeper berth time. Or, they can take two periods of rest in the sleeper berth if:

  • Neither rest period in the sleeper berth is shorter than 2 hours total.

  • Driving time immediately before and after each rest period in the sleeper berth, when added together, does not exceed 12 hours.

  • On duty time immediately before and after each rest period in the sleeper berth, when added together, does not include any driving time after the 15th hour.

  • The driver does not return to driving without taking at least 8 consecutive hours off duty, at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, or a combination of at least 8 consecutive hours off duty and sleeper berth time.

What to know about ELDs in Texas

Texas adopted the national ELD mandate in 2017. The adoption required interstate and intrastate drivers to record HOS with ELDs instead of paper logs. AOBRDs were phased out in December 2019.

FMCSA-registered devices must meet the technical specifications outlined by the FMCSA. Providers must self-certify that they have tested their device and that it meets technical and compliance requirements. 

For example, the Samsara ELD connects to a vehicle’s engine and transmits live data. There’s always an automatic and accurate log of details like vehicle speeds, diagnostic data, and safety information. Drivers can record their hours through the Samsara Driver App and detail their duty status. When combined, the engine data and the driver’s RODS form a complete picture of compliance with the ELD rule.

Exemptions: When is an ELD not mandated in Texas?

While most motor carriers will need to use ELDs, Texas has a few exemptions where they are not required.

  • Pre-2000. CMVs manufactured before the model year 2000. These vehicles are not equipped with the engine control module (ECM) needed for ELD operation.

  • Agricultural products. Truck drivers transporting crops during planting and harvesting seasons for intrastate commerce. Truckers must stay within a 150 air-mile radius from the source and distribution of commodities. Here’s more clarification on agricultural exemptions.

  • Driveaway-towaway. Towing truckers who deliver CMVs as a shipment.

  • Short-haul. Drivers who qualify for the 150 air-mile radius exemption.

  • Short-term. Drivers who maintain RODS for eight days or fewer within 30 days.

  • Oil and water well vehicles. Used in the servicing or drilling of wells, they are constructed as a machine and consist of a mast, an engine, draw works, and a chassis.

  • Mobile cranes. An unladen, self-propelled vehicle constructed as a machine used to raise, shift, or lower weights.

  • Seed cotton transporter. A vehicle transporting seed cotton.

  • Concrete pumper. A machine that is mounted on a truck and used to transfer liquid concrete.

The FMCSA has also announced limited exemptions to the Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRLA), the United Parcel Service (UPS), and the Motion Picture Association of America. Check their page for the latest exemptions and expirations.

Enforcement of the ELD rule

State governments and federal agencies work in similar ways to enforce rules. Because many rules overlap, the federal agency allows the state agency to perform audits and monitor compliance. Texas had 326,683 combined federal and state roadside inspections in 2020, so it’s better to be prepared. 

There are six different levels of DOT inspections. While they can inspect the ELD at any level, the “Level III: driver-only inspection” will look at a driver’s RODS and HOS documentation. Inspectors will want to look at:

  • Record of duty status (RODS)

  • Driver’s license

  • HAZMAT requirements

  • Medical card and waiver

  • Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate

  • Vehicle inspection report

  • HM/DG requirements

  • HOS documentation

  • Seat belt

  • Alcohol or drug use

With ELDs themselves, inspectors will want to see required in-cab materials. This includes:

  • ELD user manual

  • DOT inspection sheet

  • 8 days of paper logs

During roadside inspections, officers may ask drivers to transfer their logs to eRODS. ELD data can be transferred in two ways: via telematics transfer or local transfer.

  1. Telematics transfer: This is the preferred method. Data is transferred electronically by wireless web services and email. 

  2. Local transfer: Data is transferred electronically by USB 2.0 and Bluetooth®.

In 2020, there were over 20,000 Level III inspections. To help drivers feel prepared for inspections, they should know how to operate an ELD and show their logs. Fleet managers can offer periodic training to keep confidence and knowledge levels up.

ELD penalties and the cost of being in violation

Staying in compliance is important for every driver and fleet operator. Violating rules leads to longer-term consequences that could impact your bottom line, customer retention, or even staying in business. 

Raised CSA score

CSA scores—short for Compliance, Safety, Accountability—are how the FMCSA identifies high-risk carriers. When it comes to CSA scores, the lower, the better. Each new violation or crash will increase scores. If scores rise above thresholds the agency deems safe, they will intervene and investigate.

While a carrier’s full composite scores are not available publicly, some score categories are. Having lower scores affects:

  • Insurance. Lower scores mean lower risk and lower premiums.

  • Recruitment. Good drivers want to work for responsible companies that prioritize safety.

  • Customer growth. Having lower scores is a competitive advantage when customers are deciding whom to give their business to.

Payment of fines

Fines for ELD and HOS-related violations are weighty. In Texas alone during the fiscal year 2020, the FMCSA enforced 615 cases and collected just under $3 million in fines—more than any other state. Recording and reporting fines range, starting at $1000. Larger violations, like not having RODS or falsifying information, can net fines upwards of $50,000. When violations involve hazardous materials, the penalties are steeper. Since most fleets have multiple vehicles, fines can add up fast.

Placed out of service (OOS)

An immediate and disruptive consequence is being put out of service. The duration can vary from a few hours to until the carrier is out of violation. Being out of service is an inconvenience that costs both time and money—not to mention the cost to your reputation.

Manage compliance for fleets of all sizes with ELD solutions

Regulations that change with location. Complicated HOS rulesets. New technologies that are always developing. Drivers constantly on the move. It’s a recipe that can give the most proactive, organized fleet manager a headache. Eliminate tedious administrative paperwork and focus on what matters most: making customers happy while keeping roads safe. With a complete ELD solution, you can streamline HOS management, prevent violations, and boost compliance at any fleet size.

Simplify operations

The FMCSA-registered Samsara ELD Compliance solution is part of a complete fleet management solution. With an easy-to-use dashboard, you can get HOS and RODS, GPS vehicle tracking, WiFi hotspots, sensor data, DVIRs, and more all in one place. 

With the Samsara Driver App, drivers can edit, review, and certify HOS logs with a few taps. They can set their duty status with one click, and driving statuses update based on vehicle data, making it easy to keep accurate e-logs. Even better, rulesets are easily managed in the platform, automatically switching based on your driver’s location for seamless ELD compliance. Samsara covers the United States Interstate, United States Intrastate, and Canada rulesets.

Connected everywhere for real-time visibility

A built-in WiFi hotspot in our Vehicle Gateway keeps devices connected, even when there's no cell reception. This means that everyone on the road and in the office always receives real-time information. The ELD can transmit the engine status updates to the driver's device even in areas without cellular coverage, maintaining compliance at all times.

With real-time visibility into every driver’s logs, dispatchers can take drivers’ status into account when planning routes to avoid HOS violations. Commercial truckers receive real-time alerts when nearing violation. This notification helps make sure they stay compliant during their shift. Simple HOS countdown clocks give drivers a straightforward way to track their shift times to prevent violations.

Lower costs

The Samsara Driver App brings ELD capability to any Android or iOS device. There’s no need to purchase proprietary logging hardware. Because Samsara gateways come with a WiFi hotspot, mobile devices can connect without a costly cellular plan.

Plus, when paired with a telematics device, the ELD can detect issues in real time. ELDs can notify fleet managers whenever a vehicle maintenance problem—like failing batteries or engine faults—is detected so they can take action. Plus, fleet managers can set up a preventative maintenance schedule based on mileage or engine hours. This is valuable because last-minute emergency repairs can, on average, cost four times as much.

Best of all, the compliance solution reduces HOS violations, with some companies reporting a 70% reduction. Fewer violations mean fewer unnecessary fees to pay. As those fees add up, the cost savings can be substantial. 

Mitigate risk and keep your drivers on the road in Texas. Simplify HOS management, streamline log tracking and certification, and help drivers stay compliant. Learn more about the Samsara ELD compliance solution.

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