Shocker! Trucker Union Opposes Exemptions for Autonomous Vehicles

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The Transport Workers Union of America has issued its formal opposition to requests, filed by Alphabet's self-driving unit Waymo and autonomous technology company Aurora, seeking an exemption from some of the rules pertaining to the warning devices equipped to semi-trucks.

According to Reuters, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) received a joint application from Waymo and Aurora asking for a five-year exemption from rules that require drivers to place reflective triangles or a flare around a stopped truck to alert other drivers and help prevent a crash. The reason is that driverless trucks would not have someone in the cab that can hop out and handle the task.

From Reuters:

Aurora and Waymo instead want to use warning beacons mounted on the truck cab to avoid the need for human drivers.
The Transport Workers Union of America said the petition is "inappropriate, represents an overreach and a misuse of the waiver and exemption process, and would significantly diminish the safety of our roads. It should be rejected in the strongest possible terms."
It urged the safety board to ensure "rigorous oversight and standards" before widespread deployment of such new technologies.

Regardless of which method is actually safer, truckers aren’t likely to support any changes to the rules that will eventually leave them jobless. Though it’s similarly hard to imagine driverless trucks ever catching on without there being some major legislative changes and a lot more unemployed drivers.

As things currently stand, Congress has moved extremely slowly on tweaking federal regulations pertaining to vehicles over 10,000 pounds — with legislators often confessing they don’t really understand the relevant technologies. Meanwhile, while the government has been hesitant to change formal safety rules, it’s been broadly okay with allowing companies to self-certify autonomous test vehicles under 10,000 pounds. But the industry wants more leeway, despite not having done much to earn the public’s trust.

Waymo noted in the request it has a fleet of 48 Class 8 trucks, equipped with autonomous driving systems that operate with human operators on board who can drive the vehicles when necessary. So this shouldn’t really represent much of a problem for them until they elect to dump the safety drivers.

Aurora likewise wrote that it operates a fleet of 28 Class 8 trucks with autonomous capabilities. Those vehicles also have human operators on board. So, again, it looks like the only thing the exemption would change is how many of those people would be employed.

[Image: Vitpho/Shutterstock]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Frank Atcheson Frank Atcheson on Apr 12, 2023

    in the Almighty Name of our Green Goddess!, you will buy into this, or else!

  • Frank Atcheson Frank Atcheson on Apr 12, 2023

    oh yes, for the Greater Good, read FountainHead by Ayn Rand, the Architects' Speech to understand what is happening to the world, to America.


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