Autonomous Trucks: Kentucky Teamsters Say Strong NO

Autonomous Trucks: Kentucky Teamsters Say Strong NO

In a significant gathering on February 22nd at the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort, a diverse group of Teamsters, firefighters, police officers, other union members, and elected officials united to voice their strong opposition to House Bill 7. This controversial piece of legislation, if passed, would mark a significant shift towards the legalization of driverless trucks in Kentucky. This move has sparked concerns about safety, job security, and the influence of Big Tech on local laws.

The Heart of the Matter: House Bill 7

House Bill 7 has already cleared the Kentucky House with a 61-31 vote. The bill proposes a comprehensive regulatory framework for the operation of fully autonomous trucks and vehicles. It outlines requirements for autonomous vehicles and automated driving systems, establishes a hefty $1 million proof of insurance for potential damages, and includes a temporary provision requiring a human operator in vehicles over 62,000 pounds until July 31, 2026.

Despite these provisions, the bill’s opponents are sounding the alarm over the lack of oversight and the potential dangers posed by driverless technology. The Teamsters, in particular, have highlighted several incidents in states where autonomous trucks and vehicles are already operational, including accidents involving robotaxis and bicycles, which underscore the safety risks associated with this technology.

Voices of Opposition

Fred Zuckerman, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer, emphasized the need for legislation that reflects the interests of Kentucky residents over those of Big Tech and autonomous trucks. “We cannot let California’s Big Tech write laws for our state,” Zuckerman stated. He is calling on senators to protect union jobs, ensure safe streets, and respect the will of the people.

The opposition to autonomous trucks isn’t just about safeguarding jobs; it’s also about ensuring the safety of Kentucky’s roads. Avral Thompson, Teamsters Central Region International Vice President and President of Teamsters Local 89, pointed out, “Driverless trucks are a danger to highway safety and good jobs in Kentucky. Our elected leaders must listen to the workers of this state — not the corporations — and vote no on HB 7.”

Public Sentiment and the Future of Work

Polling indicates a significant majority of Kentucky voters, over four out of five, would view their legislators less favorably if they supported the legislation promoting autonomous trucks. There’s a palpable concern that driverless vehicles could lead to job losses, replacing well-paid union positions with lower-wage, less secure jobs. John Stovall, President of Teamsters Joint Council 94, highlighted the importance of integrating artificial intelligence into society in a way that benefits all, not just a wealthy few.

Looking Ahead

As Kentucky stands at a crossroads, the debate over House Bill 7 underscores larger questions about technology, labor, and the direction of our society. With the bill now facing the Senate, the outcome will have lasting implications for the state’s workers, its economy, and the safety of its roads. The call from Kentucky’s Teamsters and their allies is clear: prioritize the well-being and safety of the state’s residents over the interests of Big Tech and unproven technology such as autonomous trucks.




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