Teamsters call for strong federal oversight of driverless trucks
Friday, October 13, 2023
Section: Project Roadsafe

truck lit up

Federal regulation of autonomous trucks must “prioritize both workers and safety,” the International Brotherhood of Teamsters says.

In a recently released framework document, the labor union lists suggestions Congress and federal regulators should consider when forming federal policy on autonomous trucks. Among them: Include a requirement for human operators and don’t issue rules that override any on the state level that have “greater protections.”

The labor union provides five principles to guide policy: regulating the vehicle, regulating the operator, regulating operations, interaction with other laws and workforce impacts.

Among the Teamsters’ top objectives: Mandating that autonomous trucks be operated with humans subject to DOT requirements governing commercial driver’s licenses and hours-of-service regulations on board. The union also wants to uphold state regulations that might require more human operators and monitors or greater licensing standards and restrictions on autonomous vehicle use than a federal policy might stipulate.

Other proposed provisions:

  • Authorize the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to revoke operating authority for the use of AVs by any operator at its discretion because of safety issues.
  • Require motor carriers that want to deploy AVs to report the location and function of vehicles in use.
  • Ensure Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards – not a waiver – regulate the design, construction and performance of highly automated vehicles and automated driving systems.
  • Require any recipient of federal funding, federal transit funding or holder of FMCSA operating authority to publicly disclose planned AV use and its expected workforce impacts.

“Strong federal AV policies must prioritize both workers and safety,” Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said in a press release. “Any legislation that puts workers and the general public at risk will be met with aggressive opposition by the Teamsters and our allies.”

developing AV law in California holds the Teamsters’ backing. On Sept. 11, the California Senate and Assembly passed A.B. 316, which would prohibit autonomous trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds from operating on state roadways without a person on board.

The legislation also would keep the California Highway Patrol and Department of Motor Vehicles from considering permits for AVs until 2029.

O’Brien, in a separate release, affirmed the Teamsters’ backing of the bill while calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to sign it. Neglecting to do so would put “the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of truck drivers at risk, while jeopardizing public safety,” O’Brien said.