CA governor vetos bill requiring drivers in autonomous trucks

Updated Sep 29, 2023
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California Gov. Gavin Newsome late last week vetoed a piece of legislation that would have required a human driver in any otherwise autonomous truck weighing over 10,000 lbs. being driven on the state's highways.

Newsome's veto of Assembly Bill 316 is being seen as a victory for the autonomous vehicle industry, much of which is based in California. It's also seen as a slap in the face of the Teamsters union, which staged a trucker convoy and rally at the state capitol calling on Newsome to sign the bill.

"Assembly Bill 316 is unnecessary for the regulation and oversight of heavy-duty autonomous vehicle technology in California, as existing law provides sufficient authority to create the appropriate regulatory framework," Newsome said in the message that explained his veto.

California's Department of Motor Vehicles has the power to oversee and regulate the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles on the state's roads. The agency has the authority to suspend or revoke permits that allow companies to test autonomous vehicles. 

AB 316 was seen by many as protecting truck driver jobs in addition to addressing highway safety concerns.

In his veto message, Newsome addressed the jobs issue.

He wrote he has directed "... the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to lead a stakeholder process next year to review and develop recommendations to mitigate the potential employment impact of testing and deployment of autonomous heavy-duty vehicles."

The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association hailed Newsome's veto saying, among other things, that AB 316 would have "Imposed a permanent ban on AV trucks in California."

“We commend Governor Newsom for vetoing AB 316," said Jeff Farrah, executive director for the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association. "As a result, California’s safety experts can continue to evaluate autonomous vehicle technology and consider appropriate regulatory action. We look forward to continuing to work with the California DMV, California Highway Patrol, Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and other state regulators that are evaluating the future of autonomous trucking technology in the state."

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During the rally on Tuesday, Sept. 19, Teamsters members and others voiced their opposition to the bill while calling on Newsome to sign AB 316. They also warned Newsome of what could happen if he vetoed the bill.

“If Gov. Newsom chooses to not do the right thing, he is sending a message to California and every state in this country that technology should overrule middle-class jobs,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “Gov. Newsom, I got a message for you: you want to sign this bill and take on 1.2 million Teamsters in this country? Put your helmet on and buckle in your chinstrap.”