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FWEDA: Cal/OSHA Delivers Blow to Autonomous Tractors with Petition Denial

California’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) delivered a blow to advancing autonomous equipment in the state. The board voted 4-3 at its June 16 meeting to reject Monarch Tractor’s Petition 596 to amend the state labor code that would “allow for the use of driver optional tractors without a human operator stationed at the vehicular controls within a strict set of safety guidelines.”

Cal/OSHA denied a similar Petition 571 brought by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers in 2019, citing many of the same reasons. Far West Equipment Dealers Association (FWEDA) joined a coalition of agricultural interests, including producers, supporting the petition to advance the use of autonomous equipment to improve worker safety, and address labor shortages and an increasing demand for emerging agricultural technology that offers sustainable career development for the future. Growers say driverless equipment would allow them to increase productivity with efficiency and continuous 24-hour operations.

“This is a significant setback in deploying real-world solutions to improve worker safety, increase productivity and adapt emerging technology,” FWEDA President & CEO Joani Woelfel said.

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