Newsom vetoes truck driver bill

Measure would require humans in self-driving vehicles

FILE - Don Burnette, senior staff engineer at Otto, checks the software on a computer in the back of a self-driving, big-rig truck during a demonstration at the Otto headquarters on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in San Francisco. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, has vetoed a bill to require human drivers on board self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state. Union leaders and truck drivers had said the measure would save jobs. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)
FILE - Don Burnette, senior staff engineer at Otto, checks the software on a computer in the back of a self-driving, big-rig truck during a demonstration at the Otto headquarters on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in San Francisco. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, has vetoed a bill to require human drivers on board self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state. Union leaders and truck drivers had said the measure would save jobs. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill to require human drivers on board self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state.

The legislation vetoed Friday night would have banned self-driving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds -- ranging from UPS delivery vans to massive big rigs -- from operating on public roads unless a human driver is on board.

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, head of the California Labor Federation, said driverless trucks are dangerous and called Newsom's veto shocking. She estimates that removing drivers would cost a quarter million jobs in the state.

"We will not sit by as bureaucrats side with tech companies, trading our safety and jobs for increased corporate profits. We will continue to fight to make sure that robots do not replace human drivers and that technology is not used to destroy good jobs," Fletcher said in a statement late Friday.

In a statement announcing that he would not sign the bill, the Democratic governor said additional regulation of autonomous trucks was unnecessary because existing laws are sufficient.

Newsom pointed to 2012 legislation that allows the state Department of Motor Vehicles to work with the California Highway Patrol, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "and others with relevant expertise to determine the regulations necessary for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads."

Opponents of the bill argued self-driving cars that are already on the roads haven't caused many serious accidents compared to cars driven by people. Businesses say self-driving trucks would help them transport products more efficiently.

Union leaders and drivers said the bill would have helped address concerns about safety and losing truck driving jobs to automation in the future.

The bill coasted through the Legislature with few lawmakers voting against it. It's part of ongoing debates about the potential risks of self-driving vehicles and how workforces adapt to a new era as companies deploy technologies to do work traditionally done by humans.

Newsom, who typically enjoys strong support from labor, faced some pressure from within his administration not to sign it. His administration's Office of Business and Economic Development says it would push companies making self-driving technologies to move out-of-state.

The veto comes as the debate over the future of autonomous vehicles heats up. In San Francisco, two robotaxi companies got approval last month from state regulators to operate in the city at all hours.

Last Tuesday in Sacramento, hundreds of truck drivers, union leaders and other supporters of the bill rallied at the state Capitol. Drivers chanted "sign that bill" as semi-trucks lined a street in front of the Capitol. There are about 200,000 commercial truck drivers in California, according to Teamsters officials.

Also Friday, Newsom vetoed a bill that would have required judges in custody cases to consider whether a parent affirms their child's gender identity and another measure that would have barred state prison officials from sharing information about incarcerated immigrants with federal officials.

  photo  FILE - Otto's self-driving, big-rig trucks are lined up during a demonstration at the Otto headquarters on Aug. 18, 2016, in San Francisco. Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required human drivers to be onboard self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save jobs. The legislation vetoed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, night would have banned self-driving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms), vehicles from UPS delivery vans to massive big rigs, from operating on public roads unless a human driver is on board. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE- Teamsters union members hold signs urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign Assembly Bill 316, which would require in-person human supervision of self-driving vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds, at the state Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, that would have required human drivers to be onboard self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs. There are about 200,000 commercial truck drivers in California, according to Teamsters officials. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - A truck sits as California truck drivers, union leaders, and lawmakers rallied outside the state Capitol in Sacramento, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, has vetoed a bill to require human drivers on board self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state. (AP Photo/Sophie Austin, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - California Gov. Gavin Newsom unveils his 2022-2023 state budget revision during a news conference i in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, May 13, 2022. Newsom has vetoed a bill Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, that would have required human drivers to be onboard self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - Employees stand next to self-driving, big-rig trucks during a demonstration at the Otto headquarters, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in San Francisco. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, has vetoed a bill to require human drivers on board self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state. Union leaders and truck drivers had said the measure would save jobs. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - Matt Grigsby, senior program engineer at Otto, takes his hands off the steering wheel of a self-driving, big-rig truck during a demonstration on the highway, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in San Francisco. Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required human drivers to be onboard self-driving trucks, a measure that union leaders and truck drivers said would save hundreds of thousands of jobs. The legislation vetoed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, night would have banned self-driving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms), vehicles from UPS delivery vans to massive big rigs, from operating on public roads unless a human driver is on board. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)