SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has issued a statement of support for a proposed California law that would require humans inside the cabs of autonomous tractor-trailers.
Autonomous vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds would need trained operators, according to California Assembly Bill 316 (AB 316), which passed through the Assembly’s Communications and Conveyance Committee on Wednesday, April 19, with broad bipartisan support.
It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The bill, first introduced in January, is authored by California Democratic Assembly Members Cecilia Aguiar-Curry Laura Friedman, Ash Kalra and Republican Tom Lackey.
“I was simply horrified to present my bill in a California Legislative hearing and have to listen to the representative of the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association imply that our Nation’s, and our state’s, professional and skilled truckers are dangerous, drunk and texting drivers who pose a deathly risk to the public,” Aguiar-Curry said. “The callous disregard for these stewards of our highways and freeways, motivated by profit, is simply appalling. My motivation, on the other hand, is my commitment to Californians’ safety on the roads, and that safety is best protected by keeping well-trained human beings in the cab of 80,000 pound vehicles traveling at high speeds. When this industry proves to me, my colleagues, and our constituents that human-less trucking, and driverless school buses, are safer than our model in California, they will have the support to proceed.”
AB 316 is strongly supported by the Teamsters Union and the California Labor Federation, whose members have voiced concerns about the issue.
The general public has also made it known that they, too, have safety concerns surrounding autonomous vehicles.
According to a 2023 American Automobile Association study, in the last year, Americans have become more afraid of driving alongside autonomous vehicles.
Earlier this month, a poll of Texas voters showed that more than 70% were uncomfortable sharing the road with driverless trucks.
“AB 316 is common sense legislation that, in addition to keeping our roads safe, would protect thousands of good-paying jobs in California. Being a Teamster truck driver, I’m able to provide for my family with my pay and take care of my sick wife thanks to our unmatched health benefits,” said Mike Fry, professional truck driver of 27 years and member of Teamsters Local 2785. “Tech companies say that more autonomous vehicles mean more jobs, but it’s hard to believe that when the industry is leading the way in mass layoffs. We saw what happened in manufacturing, where more jobs were lost to automation than outsourcing. Let me be clear: I’m not against technology, but I am against tech giants putting it before human lives and wellbeing.”
As the California legislature considers AB 316, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is considering a regulatory framework that would allow for autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds to hit the road, possibly within one year, without consent from the state legislature.
“It is highly irregular and undemocratic for such a sweeping public policy change to be implemented by the DMV,” the International Brotherhood of Teamsters noted in a news release.
“AB 316 is gaining widespread bipartisan support because safety and jobs are issues that all Californians care about,” said Jason Rabinowitz, Teamsters Joint Council 7 president. “This is common sense legislation to everyone except the tech companies and their allies in Sacramento advocating against it.”
Randy Cammack, Teamsters Joint Council 42 president, said his organization is grateful to Aguiar-Curry for her leadership on the bill and support for his members’ safety.
“It’s time other elected leaders in California follow her lead and put their constituents ahead of Silicon Valley greed,” he concluded.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.