California lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom are on a collision course over the future of autonomous semi-trucks. The state’s Senate recently pushed through a bill known as AB 316, which requires all heavy duty commercial vehicles to have a human present when operating on roadways.
As the legislation moved through the House and Senate, Newsom’s office launched a campaign urging lawmakers to effectively cease and desist. As of Monday, Sept. 11, AB 316 was on its way to Newsom’s desk, where many believe he will veto the measure. The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA) appears to be siding with Gov. Newsom.
“We are disappointed to see AB 316 pass the California Senate. The Department of Motor Vehicles and Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) were correct that AB 316 undermines oversight of expert regulators in California. AB 316 will also lock in the unacceptable safety status quo on the state’s roads and cause California to miss out on the supply chain benefits of autonomous trucking,” AVIA Executive Director Jeff Farrah reportedly said. “We urge Governor Newsom to veto AB 316, so experts in his administration can evaluate autonomous trucking technology and ensure California benefits from the technology.”
On the other side of the proverbial aisle, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has thrown its support behind the autonomous truck ban. Eliminating truck driving jobs with technology would naturally have a chilling effect on rank-and-file union membership. Along with rejecting the driverless trucks as unsafe, Teamsters officials questioned the motives behind anti-trucker policies.
“AV companies have lost billions of dollars in the self-driving vehicle space over the last few years and are now trying to appease their investors by imposing unsafe, inadequate products on the public,” Jason Rabinowitz, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7, reportedly stated. “These corporate elites have no regard whatsoever for the safety or prosperity of the communities they will put in harm’s way. Gov. Newsom needs to do right by Californians — not these companies — immediately.”
The California Department of Motor Vehicles opposed opening the door to robot trucks over 10,001 pounds until it concluded adequate safety measures were in place. Lawmakers reportedly feared the state’s DMV would change its position. If signed into law, AB 316 prevents autonomous trucks until 2029 at the earliest. But an expected veto by Gov. Newsom could promptly kill truck driver jobs as soon as the DMV and others conclude they can safely navigate some of the country’s most congested highways.