Transportation labor announces eight key policies to promote safety, protect transit jobs in era of automation

Published: March 14, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. Calling on Congress and the Trump Administration to take seriously threats posed by automation, the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO on March 11 laid out eight principles for promoting safety, protecting the livelihoods of transit operators and ensuring public policy can adapt with the rapid pace of technological innovation. The policies come as workers in Ohio, Michigan, Arizona and other states want to prioritize safety and preserve good jobs as automated transit and ride-hailing services enter their communities.

Among other priorities, the coalition of transportation unions, of which SMART Transportation Division is a member, is calling for operators to remain on board automated vehicles to ensure safety, respond in emergencies and provide backup in case of technological failure, and for Congress to establish a fund that would supplement wages, health care costs and training or retraining programs of workers affected by automation.

“Driverless technology is coming at a time when the economy is balanced against working people, wages are stagnating, and workers are finding it harder and harder to get by. Not only do transit workers stand to see their jobs changed dramatically or automated away, but serious concerns about safety remain. So far, elected leaders do not seem to be taking these threats seriously,” said TTD President Larry I. Willis. “We cannot allow safety to be compromised or the good jobs in this sector to be steamrolled just so tech companies and Wall Street investors can have their way.”

The eight key policies are as follows:

  1. Transit agencies must give workers advance notice before deploying automated vehicles (AVs).
  2. The collective bargaining rights of transit workers must be preserved. Additionally, transit agencies must negotiate the use of automated technologies with their unions.
  3. Automated transit vehicles must adhere to strict federal safety standards.
  4. Drivers must remain onboard on automated vehicles, regardless of how far technology develops, to ensure safety, respond in emergencies and provide backup in case of technological failure.
  5. Congress should establish a transportation workforce fund to help cover wages, health care costs, unemployment benefits and training or retraining programs for workers affected by driverless technology. This fund will be paid for through a mileage-based user fee of highly or fully automated transit vehicles.
  6. Transit agencies wishing to use AVs must examine the impact they will have on transit workers and issue a report.
  7. The U.S. Departments of Labor and Transportation should also examine the impacts automation has on transit ridership, capacity and employment. This includes examining the direct and indirect impacts automated ride-sharing or ride-hailing services have on transit services.
  8. Before transportation agencies implement automated technology, they must issue a workforce training plan.

These policies on AVs and driverless technology were laid out at the TTD’s Executive Committee meeting in New Orleans.

Read the full policy statement here.