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Self-driving semi-trucks? DMV looking into potential new rules

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Posted at 5:19 PM, Feb 01, 2023

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is likely preparing a new regulatory framework that would allow for autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds to hit the road, prompting pushback from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who say this is a serious safety issue.

Teamsters have partnered with the California Labor Federation and lawmakers to introduce legislation requiring human operators to be present in autonomous vehicles.

The DMV held a public workshop with the California Highway Patrol last month, gathering information for potential new rules that would let self-driving semi-trucks, weighing as much as 80,000 pounds, on the road.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, America’s largest, most diverse union, is asking them to pump the brakes.

"You don’t create a safer environment if you have a 10,000-pound vehicle out there without a human safety net," said Lorena Gonzalez, head of the California Labor Federation.

Banning together with the California Labor Federation and state legislators, the union is hoping to get out in front of the issue by introducing Assembly Bill 316, requiring human operators to be present in autonomous vehicles.

While the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association has argued that autonomous trucks would make for safer roadways, experienced drivers say the new tech won't replace human instinct.

"Every day in the wintertime they can't judge what the roads look like, they can't judge the curbs coming around, they can't judge a car automatically coming off and running into somebody," explained Steven Wolfe, a local truck driver.

Aside from the dangers of a 12-ton mass of metal riding solo down the highway, drivers worry what happens to their jobs when a truck no longer needs a driver.

The organizations involved call Assembly Bill 316 a win-win for tech and drivers — safety on the roads and security for their jobs.

Regulations allowing for light-duty autonomous delivery vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds were approved in 2019. This latest public workshop held by the DMV is said to help the department determine the next steps for heavy-duty autonomous vehicles weighing up to 80,000 pounds.