According to The Nikkei Asian Review, the Japanese government will support efforts to enhance efficiency in the logistics sector, often likened to the circulatory system of an economy, to help address the severe shortage of truck drivers.
With Yamato Holdings parcel delivery unit Yamato Transport reportedly considering its first rate hike in 27 years, the trucker shortage has begun making an impact in the industry and beyond.
The transport ministry has approved 15 plans eligible for tax breaks and subsidies under recently revised logistics efficiency legislation. Another 15 projects will receive up to 2 million yen (US$17,450) in subsidies for formulating efficiency plans.
Many of the projects will change modes of transport. Senko will switch from road to rail for shipping apparel from greater Tokyo's Chiba Prefecture to Osaka. The plan is expected to save 1,540 driver hours a year. Sagawa Express and others will start sending fresh foods from Tokyo to Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido by rail rather than by air, taking advantage of new containers that can keep items fresh longer.
Some projects will reorganize distribution facilities. Nippon Access, an affiliate of trading house Itochu, will set up a new logistics centre for shipping goods to convenience stores. With a truck depot on-site, the duo hopes to slash drivers' wait times by 55%.
In door-to-door parcel delivery, Yamato and Seino Holdings unit Seino Transportation launched joint deliveries in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Fujisawa last year. Wakayama Electric Railway is considering transporting packages in passenger trains. Sagawa Express and Hitachi Transport System will alter pickup arrangements in Chiba Prefecture, sorting packages at the sender so that trucks need not take parcels to sorting facilities first. This is said to save around 10,000 driver hours a year.
Young people nowadays are showing less interest in the trucking industry, which is marred by a reputation for long hours. Trucks are filled to less than half of capacity, and drivers endure lengthy, efficiency-sapping waits during loading and unloading. The government hopes that its support of the private sector's projects will help improve labour productivity by 20%.
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