New Requirements for Texas Professional Engineers
At PDH Pro, we are committed to providing you with quality continuing education courses that are relevant and timely. We pride ourselves on keeping abreast of the ever changing rules and regulations that govern the profession of engineering. As part of our commitment, we review the rules and regulations for every state on an annual basis and update our courses and curriculum to reflect the changes. In 2020, we completely revamped our course on Texas Engineering Laws & Rules (Course SL-02-603) to be consistent with the substantial changes that the Board implemented.
If you are a professional engineer in the State of Texas, it is important for you to know that the Texas laws and rules governing engineering were revised and updated on March 15, 2018. A lot of changes were made to the rules during this latest round of revisions, but most were minor in nature and were primarily intended to clarify existing rules or provide additional guidance for engineers and the public. However, four significant changes have been implemented since 2017, and Texas Professional Engineers need to be aware of them.
Important Change – Electronic Signatures for Texas PEs
This change became effective on January 23, 2018. The Texas Engineering Practice Act specifies what engineers working in Texas must do relative to sealing preliminary documents and using electronic seals. However, the Act does not provide specific requirements for the technology or standards the engineer must use. It is important to note the Act and its associated rules were historically focused on paper documents and did not anticipate the use of electronic documents. However, the rules apply equally to “hard” documents as well as electronic documents. As a practical matter, every rule and practice that applies to paper documents and sealing practices may be applied to the digital plans and specifications. Ultimately, the professional engineer of record is responsible for the proper use of his seal, regardless of the form of the document.
For clarity, the board defines an electronic signature to be any digital form of an engineer’s signature. Usually, this is a scanned image of the hand written signature. The signature may be applied to a computer file which may then be saved in an electronic format or printed on paper to be submitted along with the printed version of the engineer’s signature. This rule gives engineers a lot of flexibility in how they apply their signature and seal and whether to use a digital version or paper copy of their plans and designs. The board’s position is that the engineer is responsible for properly signing and sealing all documents, regardless of the media used, and the engineer of record must either personally perform the design work or directly supervise those who complete the work. In addition, the professional engineer must ensure the security of all digital files to meet the general requirements established for signing and sealing all engineering work products.
What Are the New Texas Engineering Rules and Laws
Four important changes were rolled out by the Texas Board of Professional Engineers.
- Firm Registration and Firm Name and Number (February 16, 2017)
- TREC Inspector Providing an Opinion (November 16, 2017)
- Foundation Repair Methods (January 23, 2018)
- Electronic Signature (January 23, 2018)
Additional details about these important revisions to the rules and regulations governing Texas engineers and engineering firms are presented below.
1. Texas Firm Registration and Firm Name and Number
This rule went into effect on February 16, 2017. Engineering firms are required to register in the State of Texas. This is nothing new. However, all documents produced by engineering firms must now include the name of the firm and the firm’s registration number. The documents that must have this information include official plans and specifications, design reports, and other engineering deliverable. In addition, the Board has indicated that this requirement also applies to preliminary documents. The Board expects both the engineering firm to comply with this rule as well as the professional engineer who signs and seals the design. The specific board rule is §137.33 and §137.77.
Several examples of acceptable disclosure formats that the Board provided are shown here.
Texas Engineer Firm Seal Texas Engineer Example Firm Seal
Texas Engineering Firm Stamp Seal Texas Engineer Suitable Firm Seal
2. TREC Inspector Providing an Opinion
This rule went into effect on November 16, 2017. The following question was asked of the TCEB related to TREC inspectors.
Are licensed real estate inspectors following the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) Standards of Practice (SOPs) performing the work of Professional Engineers when “rendering an opinion as to the performance of the foundation”?
The board provided their position as to whether a TREC inspector who provides an opinion on a building foundation is practicing engineering. Here is their response.
Analyzing the cause of a condition, recommendations for repair, or providing any other expert engineering opinion associated with a foundation, including the foundations systems and components, would be considered the practice of engineering per the Act §1001.003(c)(1) and could warrant disciplinary action from the Texas Board of Professional Engineers if conducted by an individual unlicensed as a Professional Engineer (PE). We conclude that a TREC licensed inspector who conducts a visual real estate inspection in conformance with the TREC Standards of Practice does not engage in the practice of engineering.
The short answer for TREC foundation inspections – Following the TREC Standards of Practice does not constitute practicing engineering and does not require a professional engineer.
3. Foundation Repair Methods for Texas PEs
Effective January 23, 2018, this guidance is available to Texas engineers. The board received a question about Engineers providing recommendations for repairing residential foundations. The question focused on the fact that the design includes details related to piers or piles located beneath grade beams supported by soil or a slab-on-grade foundation. The issue is that the professional engineer must evaluate the flexural member to determine if it has adequate structural capacity to function as a suspended structural member. The engineer must also determine if this modification is consistent with all of the building code requirements. As part of the engineer’s design, he must meet statutory requirements that include signing, sealing and dating his/her foundation design; as well as certifying that the design and analysis were performed by him, or at least under his supervision, and, further, that it meets all of the applicable rules, regulations, and codes. I contend that this analysis is not being performed, because if the analyses were performed, most of the slabs signed, sealed and dated by Professional Engineers could not be “adjusted” by placing piers beneath them.
The board provided a lengthy response that outlined the statutory requirements the professional engineer must meet. All engineering work in Texas must meet the requirements identified in The Texas Engineering Practice Act. They noted that the Act does not set specific technical standards, and, based on this determination, they did not directly answer the question regarding the technical standard of care that is currently being applied by the engineering community when evaluating foundations. The board stated that they take all matters of engineering competency seriously, but they were not willing to accept the notion that all engineers in Texas who evaluate foundations were failing to meet the standards of care normally associated with this type of work. They also stated that, if the questioner can provide specific instances of a registered engineer not meeting the requirements of technical competency or quality of work, he must file an official complaint so the Board can properly investigation the allegations.