Teamsters Demand Tennessee Lawmakers Reject Autonomous Vehicle Bill

TN teamsters lobbying day

Senate Bill 83 Threatens Good-Paying Jobs, Community Safety

Teamsters are descending on state capitols nationwide to demand human operators be present in all autonomous vehicles (AV), as state legislatures consider drafting consequential new legislation.

Most recently, nearly 50 members and retirees of Teamsters Locals 480, 519, and 667 assembled in Nashville to talk with Tennessee lawmakers about the flawed Senate Bill 83 (SB83), a bill dealing with so-called truck “platooning.” A truck “platoon” is a series of trucks operating on a road or highway that are “connected” via wireless technology similar to Bluetooth. The proposed legislation would eliminate the requirement that a human driver be physically present in each vehicle of a truck platoon and instead, would only require a human operator in the lead vehicle, with fully driverless semi-trucks following.

“As workers, it’s critical for us to make our voices heard if we have concerns about anything that would impact our job security and safety,” said Felicia Walker, a Local 667 member and school bus driver at First Student. “This bill should set off alarm bells for not only drivers, but anyone who lives in Tennessee. State lawmakers should oppose this legislation.”

“Allowing autonomous vehicles on the road without human safety operators behind the wheel of each truck is reckless,” said Darrill Collins, a Local 519 member and freight driver at ABF Freight System. “Workers deserve a say in how new and developing technology should be used in the workplace. Forcing a bill through the state legislature that would eliminate jobs and jeopardize public safety is not the answer.”

A recent poll from AAA found that 68 percent of Americans are afraid of autonomous vehicles, significantly higher than the 55 percent reported in 2022. An October 2022 survey of Tennessee residents found that 81 percent of voters were uncomfortable with autonomous semi-trucks and nearly 60 percent of voters were more comfortable with a human operator present. Given very public incidents and accidents involving autonomous vehicles over the past year, it is not surprising that the general public is not comfortable sharing the road with driverless vehicles.

“This legislation would jeopardize good jobs like mine and pose a huge safety risk for the general public,” said Corey Phelps, a Local 480 member and UPS package car driver in Murfreesboro. “I’m proud to have joined my Teamster brothers and sisters in urging Tennessee lawmakers to reject this disastrous bill.”

Autonomous vehicles without human operators would endanger the safety of all Tennesseans. With AV-related accidents capturing headlines across the country, it is clear that autonomous vehicles, including trucks weighing up to 80,000 pounds, should not be on the road next to unsuspecting families.

Tennessee Teamsters will continue to keep the pressure on state lawmakers and push for a human operator component to state autonomous vehicle law.