Improve Cargo Transport Efficiency ahead of 2024 Trucker Work Reform

There is a serious shortage of drivers who are responsible for long-distance transportation. Improving operational efficiency is essential to maintaining stable logistics.

Laws related to work style reform that aim to correct long working hours will be applied to truck drivers and other workers from April 2024. As a result, overtime work will be capped at 960 hours per year.

Currently, there is no limit on overtime for these workers, and their annual working hours are as much as 20% higher than in other industries. When the new rule is applied, allowable overtime hours will be reduced to an average of 4 hours per day for a 20-day work month. It is only natural that the treatment of drivers, who have been suffering from harsh, long working hours, should be improved.

However, there are concerns about the “2024 problem,” in which the number of packages that can be transported will decrease with the application of the rule, resulting in stagnating logistics.

According to government estimates, unless measures are taken, 14% of the nation’s cargo will not be able to be transported by fiscal 2024, and this percentage will exceed 30% by fiscal 2030. Society as a whole needs to consider concrete measures to deal with the problem.

To effectively use the driver workforce, efficient transportation is essential. It is important to devise ways to avoid “empty truckloads” by having one truck carry the cargo of different companies on its way to and from a destination, or by having multiple companies jointly transport cargo.

A system should also be actively introduced in which multiple drivers take turns carrying cargo at relay points to be built along long-distance transportation routes.

Working hours could also be reduced by decreasing the amount of time drivers spend waiting for their turn to load or unload cargo.

Some trucking companies have already introduced a system for reserving truck entry times to logistics facilities. Digital systems must also be utilized to prevent time being wasted.

It will be vital to not rely solely on trucks for long-distance transportation, but to also combine shipping and railway services well.

Ferry companies are introducing new vessels that can carry more trucks. Railway firms are also increasing their acceptance of cargo. It is hoped that companies that ship cargo and those that handle logistics will cooperate with each other and consider allowing flexible choice for means of transportation.

The use of online shopping has increased significantly partly due to the expansion of demand from people staying home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

There seem to be many cases in which consumers order items that they do not plan to use immediately. It is advisable for sales companies to introduce a system on their websites that allows customers to indicate that they are willing to accept delivery even if it takes several days.

This should reduce the number of cases in which drivers are forced to deliver cargo on unreasonable schedules and help stabilize logistics.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 6, 2023)