The California Labor Federation, Teamsters Joint Council 7 and Teamsters Joint Council 42 announced AB 316, “The Autonomous Vehicle Public Safety Act”. The bipartisan legislation, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and co-authored by Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), requires human safety operators to be present in autonomous vehicles (AVs) weighing over 10,000 pounds.

“Reckless companies want free rein to put huge driverless vehicles on the road, at the expense of our safety and good, middle-class jobs. We are all at risk if these vehicles are on the road unregulated,” said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, leader of the California Labor Federation. “New technology should make workers and our communities more safe, not less. That’s why we’re demanding trained safety operators in automated trucks—a policy that will save lives and jobs. A win-win.”

Autonomous vehicles (AV) without human operators pose a real risk to the safety of millions of Californians. Reports of AV crashes and AV-related deaths are becoming increasingly common. According to automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over the course of 2022 there were more than 400 crashes in less than 11 months that involved AVs. Over the course of a four-month period, eleven people were killed in AV-related accidents.

“The Teamsters are working closely with elected officials and other stakeholders to make sure that technological advancement moves forward in California in a way that doesn’t endanger lives or prosperity,” said Jason Rabinowitz, Teamsters Joint Council 7 President. “Our elected officials have a responsibility to protect workers and communities – not the shareholders at big tech companies – and this bill is a great example of that.”

In addition to the safety risks, corporations such as Amazon and Google have yet to outline how they will ensure workers will keep their jobs as automation enters the industry. Truck driving is the most common job in 29 states, including California. The bill comes as the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is likely preparing a new regulatory framework that would allow for autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds to hit the road, possibly within one year, without approval from the California Legislature.

“We’d like to thank Assembly Members Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Tom Lackey, Ash Kalra, and all of their co-authors for introducing this critical piece of legislation,” said Randy Cammack, Teamsters Joint Council 42 President. “It is of the utmost importance that throughout this process, the biggest priorities remain public safety and the economic security of working families throughout our great state.”