Just transition needed in transit electrification, labor leaders say, April 2021
Utility Dive | Chris Teale As public transit agencies electrify their bus fleets and other vehicles, they must ensure a just transition to protect workers who may be put out of work by the new technologies, transportation labor groups warned Monday. In a joint policy statement, leaders of two unions that represent transportation workers — the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU), alongside the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (TTD) — said transit agencies should be required to show the workforce impacts of buying electric vehicles (EVs), establish a national workforce training center to train current employees on those systems and guarantee that workers will be represented on task forces and committees around climate change and technology. The groups cautioned that if the federal government fails to mandate worker protections as transit agencies electrify their operations, major job losses could result, while a lack of training programs could leave workers unprepared for the next generation of vehicles. […] President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan calls for a major investment in EVs and electrified transit, with a focus on what a senior administration official described as “infrastructure for the future.” But the labor groups said as public transportation agencies forge ahead with plans to electrify their vehicles, transit workers, including operators and mechanics, are not being prepared to transition to an electric future away from traditional diesel-powered vehicles. In an interview, ATU International President John Costa said only about 3% of the group’s membership is trained on the technology and how to maintain it safely, even as agencies increasingly turn to EVs. […] Costa said while electrification’s aim to reduce emissions is noble, agencies cannot rely on vehicle suppliers to train operators in the new equipment, and if there is no training on offer, workers risk their existing skills becoming obsolete. […] TWU International President John Samuelsen sounded a similar warning, saying in an interview that in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania alone, 10,000 mechanic jobs could be under threat with the move to electrification because electric motors require less maintenance. Those workers should be protected with roles elsewhere or training in other areas, he said.
White House eyes $42B in existing funding for Biden electric vehicle push
Utility Dive | Robert Walton Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes $174 billion for EV investments, including chargers and vehicle purchase incentives. Policy experts say much of that proposed spending will need to be authorized by lawmakers, but on Thursday the administration highlighted more than a dozen programs with $41.9 billion in federal grant funding available now and which could be applied to EV infrastructure buildout. […] The National Highway Performance Program, for instance, has a Fiscal Year 2021 budget of $23.1 billion and the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program was funded at $10.2 billion. Each could be accessed to construct chargers and support training related to EVs, DOT said. The U.S. Department of Energy also announced new research funding opportunities, including $10 million to reduce the cost of direct current fast charging equipment and $20 million for community-based public-private partnerships that support charging infrastructure and share data. DOE has also marked $4 million aimed at boosting workplace charging. And the Idaho National Laboratory will partner with automakers to analyze anonymous vehicle charging data “that describe market-level trends of operation and charging behavior for a large sample of U.S. consumer EVs.” The White House also announced early progress on its goal to electrify the federal vehicle fleet, saying the Council on Environmental Quality and the General Services Administration “are on track to triple the number of total [zero emissions vehicles] added to the fleet this year compared to last.”