Transit Unions Brace for Autonomous Future

Warning that autonomous vehicles could eliminate as many as 3 million jobs in the U.S., the Transportation Trades Dept. (TTD) is calling on Congress to implement a number of measures to minimize the impact on the workforce and address potential safety concerns of such vehicles.

In a policy paper issued earlier this month, TTD maintains that strong unions, engaged workers and collective bargaining practices are critical to help manage rapid changes across transit industries.  

TTD says transit agencies should be required to provide advanced notice to employees of any planned deployment of automated vehicle systems. Moreover, the group asserts that any use of such technologies needs to be negotiated with impacted employees prior to implementation.

TTD officials also advocate for a transportation workforce fund that could be used for everything from wage and healthcare supplements to extending unemployment benefits and retraining workers for other jobs. The fund could be paid for by mileage-based user fees on highly and fully automated vehicles, the report notes.

Any public transportation agency that expects 5% or more of its miles to be driven while in autonomous operation mode must submit a biennial report on workforce training, TTD reasons. Such reports should include a comprehensive analysis on the impact on workers, identify skills gaps and provide rolling two-year forecasts.  

In addition, TTD argues that human backup drivers should continue to be used on all future automated vehicles. In addition to being safety safeguards, the report suggests that backup drivers could help deter crimes on autonomous vehicles.

Formed in 1990 as part of the AFL-CIO network of unions, TTD represents workers in the aviation, maritime, mass transit, railroad and trucking industries. The group expects automation to be introduced and/or increased in some form or another across all market segments in coming years.