California Reintroduces Bill to Require Human Operators for Self-Driving Trucks

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill in 2023.

The bill would mandate human operators in self-driving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Image via Shutterstock.

In a move to enhance road safety and job security, California lawmakers, backed by Teamsters and labor allies, gathered Feb. 12 to announced the reintroduction of legislation mandating human operators in self-driving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

This initiative, Assembly Bill 2286 (AB 2286), seeks to address the burgeoning concerns around the deployment of autonomous vehicle technology on public roads.

"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," said Peter Finn, Teamsters International Western Region vice president and president of Teamsters Joint Council 7. "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 10 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."

AB 2286 is not a novel concept but a resurgence of AB 316, which saw an overwhelming bipartisan nod in the legislature last year, with more than 90% of California lawmakers supporting it. A 2023 poll revealed nearly three-quarters of Californian voters across various demographics advocated for human operators in autonomous trucks.

Assembly Majority Leader Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, who reintroduced the bill, clarified its intent against misconceptions of a technology ban.

"This legislation is about ensuring safety and job security, not hindering technological advancement. The requirement of a Human Safety Operator is a balanced approach, countering the autonomous trucking industry's narrative of a ban on humans in trucks," Aguiar-Curry said.

The push for AB 2286 gains momentum against the backdrop of recent incidents involving autonomous vehicles, such as a Cruise robotaxi injuring a pedestrian in San Francisco. These incidents have raised alarms, prompting investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and legal actions by San Francisco against the California Public Utilities Commission for expanding robotaxi operations.

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