Samsara ELD Review – 2021 Guide

Don
| Last Updated: March 24, 2021

The ELD mandate caused a major stir in the trucking industry. With this one law, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revolutionized the way truckers kept their logs. Gone were the paper logs and e-logs managed by Electronic Logging Devices or ELDs came into being. According to the ELD mandate, it is now mandatory for all commercial vehicles to install ELDs. 

The mandate opened up a business opportunity, and many technological companies obliged. The market is flooded with ELDs of all shapes and sizes and choosing the right one for yourself is not an easy task. Even the FMCSA-approved list of ELDs is very extensive. But, some devices really do stand out from the others. 

One such device is the Samsara ELD. It is a complete fleet management solution that is manufactured by a well-known manufacturer. The company is regarded as one of the leading Internet of Things (IoT) manufacturers. This article is a detailed round-up of its latest ELD.

Let’s have a look. 

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Keep your drivers connected all the time
  • Provides much better control over equipment
  • Dash cameras included for improved safety and security
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PROS

  • Quick and very easy to install
  • Comes at an affordable price
  • Allows document capture and sharing
  • Equipped with a highly efficient GPS sensor
  • Supports an extremely user-friendly app

CONS

  • Mounting set-up is inferior
  • Being Your Own Device (BYOD) design requires you to connect via smartphone

Specs and Dimensions

  • Dimensions: 4.6 x 2.7 x 1.0 inches

  • Weight: 118g

  • Operating Temperature: -40° to 85°C

  • Type: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

  • GPS: Yes 

  • Connectivity: OBD diagnostic port, Wi-Fi Hotspot, and USB

  • OS: Compatible with Android and IOS both

  • Software: Samsara Driver App

  • Fleet Size: Suitable for all fleet sizes

  • Compatibility: Smartphones, tablets, and laptops

Main Features

Samsara is relatively new in the field of trucking technology, yet they have managed to amaze their consumers with impressive, high-quality, and functional devices. Their ELD is not any different. It boasts a plethora of features that help drivers log their duty status and hours of service better and allows dispatch staff to manage the entire fleet in an organized manner.

Here are some unique features that allow it to do so in such an effective way. 

In-cab WiFi Hotspot

Unlike competing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) ELDs, the Samsara ELD does not connect to the external device over Bluetooth. Instead, manufacturers have equipped it with an in-cab WiFi Hotspot. Doing so eliminates the need to purchase separate cellular data plans in order to operate the device.

Also, this type of connection is more lenient on the device battery as the Bluetooth connection drains the battery faster. 

Driving Teams

Another unique feature of this device is that it allows an entire driving team to work together and perform their duties with a single device only. The first driver can log each member of the team as passengers. They can take turns driving and break times while setting their duty status accordingly.

The device will accurately log each driver’s time on their own account, respectively, without having to stop to connect their own devices. 

Safe Messaging

While the other ELDs may support messaging, none of them are as safe as the Samsara ELD messaging. The messages are easier to access, are displayed as a two-way chat between the driver and the dispatch, and the best part is the inability to send or view messages while the vehicle is driving. It can send push notifications and read the messages aloud if the organization has purchased the text-to-speech feature. 

Dual OBD Port Cable

The connectivity cable Samsara ELD comes with is also unique. It features two OBD ports. One is male, and the second is female. The former connects the device to the vehicle's diagnostic port, while the latter not only appears to be identical to the vehicle port but also acts as the substitute diagnostic port to facilitate vehicle diagnosis when needed. 

Plug-n-play Connectivity

The Samsara ELD features a plug-n-play connectivity. With this device, you don’t need to hire professional help for installation. Instead, it is designed to support DIY installation. All you need to do is connect the device to the vehicle diagnostic port via the supplied connectivity cable and activate it over the web.

Pros

When you go out to buy something, you carefully check its features, weigh them against your use, and very carefully take the decision to purchase it. Samsara ELD is no different. While your number one priority when purchasing an ELD should be compliance, there are also some secondary features that make any ELD a good one. Let’s have a look at some of the pros of the Samsara ELD.

Comes at an Affordable Price

When you look at the different units listed in the FMCSA-approved ELD list, you will notice that most of the units have a high upfront cost. Combine this with the monthly subscription charges, and the cost is definitely quite high for carriers who operate on a smaller level. 

But the Samsara ELD stands out for having an affordable upfront cost. What’s more is that the service subscription plan is a three-year or five-year annual payment plan, so you don’t have to deal with monthly payments. 

Quick and Very Easy to Install

The Samsara ELD is designed for DIY installation. With this as your ELD, you don’t have to hire professional services. Instead, you can easily install it on your vehicle yourself. The process is so simple that a newbie can also manage it very easily. All you need to do is take the connectivity cable and plug one end into the device and the other into the vehicle's diagnostic port, and you are ready to go. 

Supports an Extremely User-friendly App

Being a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) ELD, the device can only be operated via the compatible software program. For this device, it is the Samsara Driver App, and boy does it deliver! The app is available over both Apple and Android platforms, where it is free to download. It has an extremely user-friendly interface, so you won’t face any difficulty whilst navigating through it. 

Allows Document Capture and Sharing

Being a commercial driver, you are often required to collect documents, such as delivery and fuel receipts or lading bills. But with the Samsara ELD, you don’t need to keep them on you any longer. Using your smart device's camera, you can capture their photos and upload them as time-stamped documents to the cloud. This way, you and the back-officers both can access them easily. 

Equipped With a Highly Efficient GPS Sensor

An important consideration in an ELD is an efficient navigation system. And Samsara ELD does not fail to deliver in this department. In fact, it features one of the best GPS systems on the market. Using it, the dispatcher can easily track the fleet vehicles in real-time. 

Furthermore, it offers a helicopter view and delivers information, such as fuel consumption, utilization, route performance, and driver behavior. All of these allow operators to run their fleet in an efficient and organized manner. 

Cons

The amazing Samsara ELD also has some shortcomings too. Don’t worry; they are not any major issues, just some minor design misgivings that can be easily ignored. These include: 

Being Your Own Device (BYOD) Design Requires You to Connect Via Smartphone 

While some drivers might appreciate its BYOD design, others think that using your personal smartphone for work purposes is not a great idea. Since the device lacks its own display, even if you don’t want to connect your personal phone with it, you will still need a separate smartphone, tablet, or laptop to be able to operate it. 

Mounting Set-up is Inferior

Most of the ELD devices manufactured nowadays have a discrete mounting setup in place to secure them to the vehicle. Some come with suction mounts, while others have adhesives applied on their back. 

But with Samsara ELD, this is not the case. It comes with some zip ties that fix the device into a secure position, but it is not secure enough. Being installed on the driver's side near the legs, the device is always at the risk of unplugging. 

What is the Samsara ELD Best For?

Samsara ELD is an all-in-one platform for fleet management. Coming from a well-known and respected Internet of Things (IoT) company, this amazing device combines hardware, software, and cloud all together to aid fleet operations and data logging. 

With this one device, you can either go all basic or opt for a more versatile ELD compliance. With its all-in-one functionality, Samsara ELD is surely one of the best devices you can buy today. Here are some uses it is best for:

ELD Compliance

The basic purpose of installing an ELD is to become compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ELD mandate. This device truly adheres to the principles of the rule. It is apt at logging Hours of Service (HOS), maintaining Record Of Duty Status (RODS), helping dispatch stay in contact with the driver, report the ECM and vehicle location data to the back office dashboard, and creating comprehensive DVIR, among other things. 

Comprehensive Solution

This all-in-one device is best for enhancing the performance and efficiency of fleets. No matter the size, this comprehensive solution offers a ton of features and tools that help operators manage their fleets in a better way. 

It provides accurate sensor data, helps them draft better routes, prevents violations, tracks, and reports all the vehicles of the fleet with a user-friendly dashboard interface, and helps them manage the fleet in an organized way with its useful back-office tools. 

Route Planning

One of the best features of this device is its fleet routing and dispatching capability. It eliminates the need to call drivers, again and again, to find out where they are. Instead, it tracks and continuously gives the dispatch the real-time location of the vehicle at a given time. With its safe messaging, it allows the drivers and dispatch to draft better routes for their vehicle. 

What Do I Need To Know Before Buying a Samsara ELD?

Commercial vehicle road accidents are the most common and dangerous. That’s why the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have imposed the ELD mandate to ensure road safety of both drivers and passers-by. 

If you are a carrier operator, you should know that it is now a must to equip each vehicle in your fleet with an ELD. One such useful device is the Samsara ELD. Here is what you need to know before buying it: 

BYOD

The first thing you should know is that the Samsara ELD is a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) ELD. It is compact in size and does not have a display. It is operated via the Samsara Driver App. You can download it for free from both Android and iOS platforms. Once you have the app on your smartphone or tablet, you can connect it via the in-cab Wi-Fi Hotspot to log your duty status and Hours of Service. 

Monthly Subscription

Unlike some other ELD devices on the market, Samsara ELD is not a one-time purchase. There is the upfront installation cost first. And they also sign you up for a minimum three-year contract of the monthly subscription fee to continue using the service. 

OBD Cable

The Samsara ELD comes with a unique OBD connectivity cable. It features two OBD ports, one of which is identical to the vehicle diagnostic port. You can use the male OBD port to connect the device to the vehicle, while the female OBD port serves as the substitute diagnostic port for vehicle diagnostic usage. 

Suitable for Any Sized Fleet

The one thing you should know about the Samsara ELD is that it is suitable for fleets of any size. Whether you run a small family-owned trucking business or are the owner of a commercial carrier with hundreds of vehicles on your fleet, you can easily rely on the Samsara ELD to keep an accurate track of all your vehicles as well as manage the e-logs of all your drivers.

Samsara ELD vs KeepTruckin – Comparison Overview

If you have been in the trucking industry long enough, you must have heard of KeepTruckin. They have been revolutionizing log-keeping even before the ELD mandate was enforced. The company has a strong reputation and has been serving a large number of fleets in a satisfactory manner. 

Samsara, on the other hand, is a newcomer but has managed to impress consumers with its all-round ELD. Let’s have a look at how these devices compare with each other. 

Similarities

Both being ELDs, KeepTruckin and Samsara have a lot in common. 

BYOD Devices 

The first thing we noticed is the type of devices. Both the companies supply Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) ELDs. They facilitate ease of installation with their plug-n-play connectivity. All you need to do is plug them into your vehicle via the diagnostic port. 

Operate via Compatible Apps

They are quite compact in size and lack a display. You can operate them via their respective apps that are available to download on your smartphone. Both the apps are compatible with Android and iOS phones and are free to install from their respective stores.

ELD Compliance

They also have the same benefits for ELD compliance. They boot up as soon as the engine is powered, start recording Hours of Service (HOS) as the vehicle starts moving, allow the drivers to connect with their operations, GPS navigation, and much more, all with just one device alone.

Differences

While we observed that both KeepTruckin and Samsara have more or less the same features that any operator can ask for to comply with the ELD mandate, there are many ways these devices differ from each other.

OBD Cable

The first difference we noticed was the connectivity cable these devices come with. While the KeepTruckin cable takes over the diagnostic port completely, the Samsara cable comes with male and female OBD ports. The male port connects the device to the vehicle, while the female OBD port, which is identical to the vehicle diagnostic port, is left unplugged for vehicle diagnostic purposes. 

Driver Coaching

Both devices promote fleet safety via driver coaching. The feature is very useful, yet, we think Samsara’s in-cab voice coaching is better than KeepTruckin. If there has been a harsh driving event, it automatically uploads the footage captured by the dash-cam to the Samsara dashboard for back-office personnel to deal with. 

Build Quality

Although we really like the design, we feel that the build quality of Samsara ELD is lower than that of KeepTruckin. The zip tie mounting is also lacking compared to the adhesive tapes that secure the KeepTruckin ELD on the vehicle's dashboard. 

Samsara ELD Troubleshooting

The Samsara ELD is an advanced compliance tool for fleets of every size. Other than keeping logs, it can also provide its operators with real-time location and analytics, Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, and sensor data. The device itself is very useful. Yet being an electronic device, it also suffers from connectivity issues, failure to power up, consistent beeping, or automatic status changes, amongst other minor issues from time to time. Here are some commonly reported troubles of Samsara ELD and how to troubleshoot them.

What Would Make Samsara ELD Beep?

Samsara ELD is an electronic log keeping device. It is designed to not only manage your Record of Duty Status (RODS) but also record your Hours of Service (HOS). Manufacturers have also helpfully equipped it with a warning beeper that starts beeping when you are approaching your time limit to ensure that you stay compliant. When your device starts beeping, you better check the HOS and respond accordingly. 

Samsara ELD Not Automatically Going to Drive

Although this is not a common problem, it can happen sometimes. If such a situation arises, you should check the app-gateway connection. Make sure that the app is connected properly. Try reconnecting by logging out and then signing in again after 15 seconds. 

If this does not help, switch off the engine and unplug the device from the diagnostic port. Wait for five minutes and plug it back in, and log in with the app. Now choose the vehicle and take a test drive over five mph. If the issue still persists, contact support. 

What Causes Samsara ELD to Flash Orange?

If your Samsara ELD indicator light is flashing orange, there could be two reasons. Either it has failed to boot (solid orange light), or it has failed to connect to the cellular network (blinking orange light). If you are facing the former issue, contact support immediately. And if your ELD indicator is blinking orange, make sure it gets proper reception. You can also try a hard reboot (unplug and replug after 15 minutes) if the problem persists. 

How to Use a Samsara ELD

Since it is a BYOD ELD, you will need a software to use it. This software is the Samsara Driver App. It is easily available on both Play Store and AppStore. Here is how to use a Samsara ELD:

1. Download the App

To be able to use your Samsara ELD, the first thing you need is the Samsara Driver app. 

Open the store and search for the app. Click download and let the installation finish. 

2. Log in

Once the app is downloaded, open it. It will ask you to log in. Using your Fleet ID, username, and password provided by your fleet manager, log in to the app. 

3. Choose Vehicle

After successful logging, you will be presented with a list of vehicles in your fleet. Go over the list and select the vehicle you are driving. Press confirm. Doing so will bring you to the main homepage of the app. Here you will see different icons for different features and functions. Below is an in-depth account of each. 

4. Messaging

This feature appears as a small envelope-shaped icon on the top left corner. It allows drivers to communicate with dispatchers over texts in a safe format. Pressing this icon will open the two-way chat between you and your dispatch. Messaging with Samsara is safe as they cannot be sent or viewed while driving. And if your organization has enabled text-to-speech, you can hear your messages out loud with it. 

5. Settings

Settings are visible as a gear icon on the top right corner. You can use it to change your language, theme, send feedback, or seek help. Simply, it allows you to personalize the app to suit your needs. 

6. HoS (Hours of Service)

Once you hit the HoS tile, you will see four clocks or dials. Each of these represents how much time you have left until your break, shift, cycle, or drive. You can analyze your time from this screen at a glance. Also, you can claim unassigned driving time from this screen as well. 

7. Documents

The Documents tile enables you to upload information directly via the app. The data you upload here is directly sent to the Samsara Cloud from where it is easily accessible for your managers and administrators. 

8. DVIR (Driver Vehicle Inspection Report)

Creating DVIRs is an important part of being a truck driver. The Samsara ELD allows you to create DVIRs directly on the app. 

Click on the tile and hit create DVIR. You will see a form. Fill it out, press next, certify, and submit your report. 

9. Vehicle

This feature allows you to edit or change the vehicle you are driving. You are always prompted to choose a vehicle as soon as you log in, but if you wish to change the vehicle after that, you can do so with this tile. Press the vehicle tile, and you will see a list of vehicles in your fleet. Select the right one from the list. You can also search for the desired vehicle by using the search bar. 

10. Routes

In the routes section, you can view the different routes assigned to you or the vehicle. These are pre-configured paths, and fleet managers can assign them to different drivers or vehicles. When you click on this tile, you can view the recent routes under the Today tab. Meanwhile, the ones assigned for the next two days will appear under the Future tab. 

Each route has its start and endpoints mentioned. You can view them in detail when you press Tap to View Route. At the bottom of the screen, there is an option of Navigate to. Clicking on it opens Google Maps to assist you from one location to the next. 

11. Driving Team

Samsara ELD enables a team of two or more drivers to manage their logs on a single device. Click on the driving team and click on add passenger. Enter their username and password and press sign in. They will show as passengers beneath the driver. Hit view account, go to HOS, and change their duty status to Sleeper Berth. 

Now, go back to the driving team. View your account and start driving. The ELD will record both your and the team members' logs automatically. Once your task as the team is done, hit sign out. This will sign everyone out, ending the driving team. Do this only when everyone is ready to go off-duty.

We have tried explaining how to use Samsara ELD in detail. It is quite simple and easy to use. But, if you would like to watch a video account of the entire process, here you go:

How to Install Samsara ELD

Installing a Samsara ELD is very easy. It comes as a plug-n-play device that connects to your smartphone via Wi-Fi Hotspot. To understand how to install Samsara ELD, let’s look at what’s inside the box first. You’ll get the vehicle gateway, which is the main hardware, and a set of zip ties. Along with these, you also get a cable that connects it to your vehicle. Now, here’s how to install it.

  1. Turn the vehicle gateway over and note the serial number of the device.
     
  2. Open the vehicle cab door and locate the diagnostic port. This port is usually found beneath the steering column, on the dashboard's left side, or near the driver side kick panel.

  3. Remove the diagnostic port from its position.

  4. The connectivity cable you get with a Samsara ELD has two OBD ports. They are referred to as male and female OBD ports.

  5. Connect the male OBD port to the vehicle diagnostic port. 

  6. Now insert the gateway connector into the unit until it clicks.

  7. Turn on the vehicle. 

  8. The indicator light on the Samsara vehicle gateway will start flashing orange. This indicates initialization, i.e., the gateway is trying to establish a connection to the Samsara Cloud. 

  9. As soon as the connection is established, the indicator light will turn solid green. This should take about one to three minutes. If it takes longer than that, try replugging it.

  10. Once the device is ready, take the zip ties and secure the gateway in a suitable position. 

  11. This leaves us with the female OBD port. It is identical to the vehicle diagnostic port, so insert it in place of the original port. This way, you can continue using the port for vehicle diagnostic purposes.

  12. Now go to samsara.com/activate.

  13. Here, put in the serial number of the device you just installed.

  14. Press activate hardware to activate and start using your Samsara ELD.

Though the process of installation is fairly easy, if you face difficulty in any step of the process, you can check out the video given below for a better understanding. 

Conclusion

Whether you are a commercial carrier or an owner-operator, you need a reliable ELD to become compliant with the ELD mandate. You need a device that not only tracks the record of duty status and hours of service accurately but also allows GPS tracking, sensor data, document capture, and DVIRs, amongst other useful features. 

Samsara ELD is such a device. It helps you become ELD compliant and does that at a very affordable cost. A large number of truck drivers, fleet managers, and owner-operators are taking advantage of its electronic logging, constant connectivity, and useful navigation with the user-friendly interface. Get it today to join the ranks of its highly satisfied consumers. 

People Also Ask

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ELD mandate opened up a huge opportunity for ELD manufacturers. Being a leading name in trucking technology, Samsara also seized the chance to produce an ELD device of its own. And true to their motto, they delivered an amazingly satisfying unit. Here are some frequently asked questions about it. 

Is Samsara ELD Worth it?

Samsara is a versatile ELD mandate compliance device. It perfectly blends affordability, reliability, user-friendliness, and a ton of useful features in a compact and sleek unit. It is worth it whether you are a truck driver, fleet manager, or owner. It aptly prevents you from committing Hours of Service (HOS) violations while working as a routing and dispatching device at the same time. 

Who Makes Samsara ELD?

The Samsara ELD is made by Samsara. The company originated in 2015 when the co-founders of Meraki laid its foundation. Today, it is a part of Cisco Systems. They develop, manufacture, and sell networking telecommunications equipment, hardware, software, and other high-technology services and products. 

When Was Samsara ELD Created?

Samsara is somewhat new to the trucking industry. The company came into being five years ago and has built up a stellar reputation for quality services. Today, it is one of the largest Internet of Things (IoT) providers in the United States. The company created its Samsara ELD after the ELD mandate went into full effect in December 2018.

Is a Samsara ELD Hard to Use?

Being a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Samsara ELD is not at all hard to use. You can connect the vehicle gateway via Bluetooth to your smartphone. Now all you need is the Samsara app. The device is very easy to install, and the app also has a user-friendly interface that makes this unit pretty easy to use. 

How Much is the Samsara ELD?

Samsara is a relatively new yet reliable name on the trucking accessory market. They have been manufacturing cameras, tracking devices, and sensors for five years and have come up with a low-cost ELD with affordable monthly pricing. The Samsara ELD has an upfront cost of $129 and comes for a three or five-year term contract. 

How Long Does Samsara ELD Battery Last?

Although the Samsara ELD operates on the power drawn from the vehicle, the device also has a backup battery. It powers the tamper detection system in case of power cutoff. If such a situation arises, the system sends a wireless alert via the Samsara Cloud to notify the driver. So yes, as a backup battery, it does not last long. 

How Much Does the Samsara ELD Cost Per Month?

The Samsara ELD claims to reduce the ELD mandate violations by 70%. At the moment, they only have one ELD device, which is why they offer it at a market-competitive price. The unit's upfront cost is $129, and you have to pay an annual fee of $400 over the contract period of three years to avail of their service. You also have to sign the mandatory three-year contract.

Don

After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.