Photo/Illutration Trucks parked at an expressway parking area in Aichi Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The government drew up a policy package to avert a looming crisis in the freight truck industry that will likely result in far slower deliveries because of a driver shortage.

A key change concerns stricter implementation from April 2024 in yearly working and overtime hours clocked by truck drivers. That, along with a general aging of the truck driver population, is expected to fan the shortage.

One government estimate projected a 14.3 percent shortfall in truck transport capability in fiscal 2024, with the figure rising to 34.1 percent in fiscal 2030.

A June 2 meeting of Cabinet ministers overseeing the matter called for better cooperation among freight senders and recipients as well as trucking companies and consumers.

A major factor behind the long working hours logged by truck drivers is the time spent waiting to unload freight as well as carrying out the unloading. Recipient companies often do not adequately compensate the drivers for their time.

To correct this and other business practices, the policy package calls on freight recipients and trucking companies to cooperate and coordinate schedules to reduce waiting times.

This lack of coordination often means trucks arrive at a destination at the same time as others, causing a line to form to unload cargoes.

Companies will be required to draw up plans to improve their operations as well as submit reports on the progress being made. Legal action, such as administrative guidance, will be taken against firms that egregiously fail to meet their obligations.

Legislation will likely be submitted to the Diet next year to gain legal backing for the moves.

While details still have to be finalized, one step under consideration is to revise the practice of advertising free delivery of products to ensure that fair transport fees are tacked on.

The package also called for improving the transport capability of trains and ships to reduce the burden on the trucking industry.

Consumers will also be asked to play their part and remain at home for scheduled deliveries to prevent the need for a later delivery.

The government goal is to halve the redelivery rate from the current 12 percent of all deliveries in fiscal 2024.

As a way of improving transport efficiency, trucks will be allowed to exceed the current expressway speed limit of 80 kph.

Other measures to improve efficiency call for the greater use of autonomous driving or artificial intelligence and better coordination among companies within a specific region.