Read the TWU White Paper

New Technologies in Transit Systems

Executive Summary

The Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) and our members have always been at the forefront of transportation innovation. We believe that new technologies must be measured against the following core set of principles:

  1. Maintain high quality jobs
  2. Achieve the highest levels of safety and security
  3. Ensure that our transportation systems are reliable

Some 21st-century transportation technologies present major threats to the number and quality of jobs in our economy. At the same time, many of these same technologies hold the potential to create major gains for workers in safety, job security, and pay & benefits if they are properly overseen and implemented. These technologies include autonomous vehicles, fully electric buses, drones, and many discrete safety components like automatic braking.

Rather than ignore these changes or accept the worst possible outcome, leaders must prepare for new technologies before they create widespread economic pain. We have the power to control how technology will affect us and what role we want it to play in our future.

We must act now to influence how new technologies will be developed and deployed in the transportation sector. Policymakers should take the following steps to ensure the next generation of our economy is pro-worker, as well as pro-innovation.

  • Transparent Planning & Reporting: Require employers to develop a timeline for reporting, budgeting, worker impact analysis, and investment in re-skilling of workers prior to implementing new technology that will significantly impact jobs and/or job functions.
  • Public Safety & Security: Require fail-safe systems for new technologies which detect malfunctions and allow for human intervention when the technology fails. Advance rigid and fully enforceable safety standards. Reject exemption applications for new technologies which fail to meet existing safety, labor, and environment standards.
  • Workforce Involvement: Require formal advance notices (similar to WARN notices) be sent to the workforce prior to introducing and implementing a new product or service that will significantly impact jobs and/or job functions. Require employers to create a comprehensive plan to transition or train employees to ensure new jobs created by technology benefit existing workers. Mandate collective bargaining over the terms of implementing new technology. Ensure that representatives from workers are included all technology-related working groups and committees established by our government; require these groups to address job issues as part of their work.
  • Privacy & Cybersecurity: Establish clear, uniform, and enforceable safety, security and privacy standards. Require that new technology be subjected to cybersecurity requirements to prevent hacking and to ensure mitigation and remediation of cybersecurity events. Require robust privacy and data collection safeguards for new technology.