California Governor Vetoes Bill Mandating Human Drivers in Autonomous Trucks

California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required human drivers to be present in self-driving trucks. Union leaders and truck drivers supported the bill, arguing it would protect hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state.

The legislation, vetoed on Friday night, aimed to prohibit self-driving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds—from UPS delivery vans to large big rigs—from operating on public roads without a human driver on board.

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, head of the California Labor Federation, criticized the veto, calling it shocking and arguing that driverless trucks are dangerous. She estimated that removing human drivers could result in the loss of a quarter million jobs in California.

“We will not stand by while bureaucrats side with tech companies, trading our safety and jobs for increased corporate profits. We will continue to fight to ensure that robots do not replace human drivers and that technology does not eliminate good jobs,” Fletcher stated late Friday.

In his statement explaining the veto, Governor Newsom, a Democrat, argued that additional regulations for autonomous trucks are unnecessary, citing existing laws as sufficient. He referred to a 2012 legislation that allows the state Department of Motor Vehicles to collaborate with the California Highway Patrol, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and other experts to establish necessary regulations for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

Opponents of the bill contended that self-driving cars already on the roads have not caused many serious accidents compared to human-driven vehicles. Businesses argue that self-driving trucks would enhance efficiency in transporting goods.

Union leaders and drivers believed the bill would have addressed safety concerns and the potential loss of truck driving jobs to automation.

The bill had easily passed through the Legislature, with few lawmakers opposing it. It is part of an ongoing debate about the risks associated with self-driving vehicles and how workforces will adapt as companies increasingly deploy technologies traditionally handled by humans.

Governor Newsom, typically a strong supporter of labor, faced internal pressure not to sign the bill. His administration’s Office of Business and Economic Development warned that the bill could push companies developing self-driving technologies to relocate out of state.

This veto comes amid a heated debate over the future of autonomous vehicles. Last month in San Francisco, state regulators approved two robotaxi companies to operate in the city around the clock.

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