California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required human drivers for self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truckers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state.
The legislation that was defeated Friday night would have banned self-driving trucks — from UPS delivery vans to large trucks — weighing more than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) from operating on public roads unless they had a human driver on board.
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, president of the California Federation of Labor, said driverless trucks are dangerous and called Newsom’s veto shocking. She estimated that eliminating drivers would cost the state 250,000 jobs.
“We will not stand by while bureaucrats side with tech companies and trade our safety and jobs for increased corporate profits. We will continue to work to ensure robots do not replace human drivers and technology is not used to undermine good business practices. jobs,” Fletcher said in a statement late Friday.
In a statement announcing that he would not sign the bill, the Democratic governor said there is no need for additional regulation of self-driving trucks because existing laws are sufficient.
Newsom noted that 2012 legislation allows the state Department of Motor Vehicles to work with the California Highway Patrol, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other agencies with relevant expertise to determine the regulations needed for autonomous vehicles to operate safely on public roads .
Opponents of the bill argue that self-driving cars already on the road have not caused as many serious accidents as cars driven by humans. Companies say self-driving trucks will help them transport products more efficiently.
Union leaders and drivers said the bill would help address safety concerns and concerns about a future where truck driving jobs are replaced by automation.
The bill sailed through the Legislature with few lawmakers voting against it. It’s part of an ongoing debate about the potential risks of self-driving cars and how the workforce will adapt to the new era as companies deploy the technology to do jobs traditionally done by humans.
Newsom, who typically enjoys strong support from the Labor Party, has faced some pressure from within the administration not to sign the deal. His administration’s Office of Business and Economic Development has said it will push companies that make self-driving technology to move out of state.
The veto comes as debate over the future of self-driving cars heats up. In San Francisco, two robotaxi companies last month received approval from state regulators to operate around the clock in the city.
In Sacramento last Tuesday, hundreds of Teamsters, union leaders and other supporters of the bill rallied at the state Capitol. Drivers chanted “Sign the bill” as semi-trucks lined the streets in front of the Capitol. According to Teamsters officials, there are approximately 200,000 commercial truck drivers in California.