Measures Needed to Prevent Accidents Caused by Overwork

The number of self-employed drivers using mini cargo vehicles with an engine capacity of less than 660cc to deliver goods is increasing amid the expansion of online shopping. Safety measures must be strengthened to prevent accidents caused by overwork.

The number of parcels handled by home delivery services in fiscal 2021 totaled about 5 billion. As delivery companies are unable to handle parcel volumes at that level, there is a growing trend of outsourcing work to self-employed drivers.

In fiscal 2021, there were about 210,000 delivery service providers using mini cargo vehicles, an increase of more than 30% from 10 years ago, comprising mainly sole proprietors. One reason for the increase might be the ease of starting a business, which can be done by simply filing a notification to the government.

From April 2024, overtime regulations for truck drivers will be tightened, prompting concerns that cargo transportation capacity will decline and logjams in delivery and trucking services will become more serious. To mitigate the “2024 problem,” it is inevitable that the reliance on freelance drivers will become even greater in the future.

The fact that road accidents are increasing in line with the increase in the number of self-employed delivery drivers is an issue. The number of fatal and serious accidents involving mini cargo vehicles in 2021 was nearly double the 2016 figure. It seems that safety measures have not kept pace.

In a government survey of mini cargo vehicle drivers, about 40% of respondents said they work more than 11 hours per day, on average. Some even said they work more than 15 hours a day.

More than half of the drivers said they had received demands from shippers that led them to violate the law, such as overloading vehicles. Some complained that they would stop receiving work if they failed to fulfill all of the delivery requests they received.

In many cases, self-employed drivers are contracted by major online shopping sites and trucking companies. It is clear that drivers are in a weaker position compared to shippers.

Shippers who hire self-employed delivery drivers need to make efforts to reduce the burden on them by creating suitable working environments and improving safety measures.

The government must also identify malpractice cases through a reporting service for drivers and by strengthening monitoring. It is also essential to educate drivers on safety and encourage them to comply with laws and regulations.

Efforts must be made to expand the pool of delivery drivers to maintain transportation capacity while ensuring safety.

Consumers must also be aware of the need to reduce the burden on drivers.

The redelivery rate for home delivery services currently stands at 12%. The government has set a target of reducing this rate to 6% by fiscal 2024 to address the 2024 problem.

Each consumer must make efforts to contribute to the efficiency of delivery and trucking services through such measures as designating a date and time when they can receive their items or choosing to pick up items at convenience stores.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 14, 2023)