A massive bi-partisan rally attended by Democratic lawmakers, Republican lawmakers, and the Teamsters Union was held outside the State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, promoting a bill that would require driverless trucks to have a driver in the vehicle.
The bill in question is Assembly Bill 2286, authored by Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), would prohibit the operation of an autonomous vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more on public roads for testing purposes, transporting goods, or transporting passengers without a human safety operator physically present in the autonomous vehicle at the time of operation. AB 2286 itself is a copy of last year’s AB 316, a bill also authored by Aguiar-Curry that sought to include drivers on autonomous vehicle trucks. While the bill had bipartisan support and easily passed the Assembly and Senate, creating an odd mix of supporters that included Teamsters, Republicans, and Democrats, the AV vehicle industry and silicon valley tech supporters influenced Governor Newsom to veto the bill last September.
Since then, the backlash against autonomous vehicles in California has only grown. A number of high profile incidents of robotaxis getting into accidents and injuring people in San Francisco led to Cruise suspending operations in the state, with Californian agencies suing many robotaxi companies as well over incidents. As of February, the future of robotaxis in other Californian markets such as Los Angeles is currently in doubt, with Waymo, the only robotaxi company left operating in San Francisco, being scrutinized over an accident of their own recently. AV backlash in Sacramento has also been strong, with many bills coming up this session already over the industry.
With more accidents and incidents involving AV’s popping up since the veto, Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry and the Teamsters brought back the AV trucking bill last week. While Teamsters want to boost up the number of union jobs, Democrats wanting to make in-roads into more rural counties, and Republicans wanting to protect agricultural and blue collar jobs in GOP heavy areas, all three joined together due to the safety reasons behind the bill, as well as the growing backlash against AI vehicles in the state.
Rally in Sacramento
This led to Monday’s rally in Sacramento. While Teamsters leaders and Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry were there, so were many other lawmakers, including Assemblymembers Tom Lackey (R-Boron) and Laura Friedman (D-Glendale).
“I’ve reintroduced this bill because the Legislature’s role is critical in deciding when autonomous trucking is safe and when there is a REAL plan for our trucking workers,” said Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry on Monday. “The autonomous trucking industry has cast this bill as a ban on technology when it explicitly states that testing and deployment will happen with a Human Safety Operator. Using their logic, they’re the ones who support a ban. A ban on humans in trucks. A ban on working people’s ability to provide for their families and provide safe roadways for Californians. We will not stand by and let them put profits over people.”
Teamsters Vice President Peter Finn added that “As autonomous vehicle companies try to push their new, untested technology onto our roads, we need to prioritize legislation that will protect our streets and good-paying driving jobs, and that starts with AB 2286. We’ve seen the destruction that small robotaxis can cause, injuring pedestrians and preventing first responders from doing their job. We cannot allow driverless vehicles weighing ten times that of a robotaxi onto our roads without a human operator. That’s why the Teamsters are calling on California policymakers to pass AB 2286.”
However, despite the bipartisanship of the rally, experts warned that the bill was heavily union influenced and that any debate on the bill should include that.
“Oh my yes. This is very much a labor union tinged bill,” said labor consultant Jeanne Rogers to the Globe. “The unions lucked out. A lot of Republicans are for it because of how many jobs it protects in rural and agricultural areas. And they are pushing the bill at a time when more and more people hate AV cars and trucks. They keep hurting people and, I mean, people hate them so much that they are burning them in the streets of San Francisco.
“Again, beyond that, this is the unions, the Teamsters, wanting to keep enrollment up and to secure trucking jobs for the coming years. All they have to convince now is Newsom, who vetoed the bill last year. And this is just sad. This bill is really, who will win, big tech or big labor. That’s the real battle here.”
AB 2286 is to be heard in Assembly Committees in the coming months.
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Author: Evan Symon
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