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Trucker shortage in Japan causing serious port delays

A worker walks past a truck carrying a container at a shipping terminal in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Japan's trade deficit widened to a record in January as surging import costs weigh on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign to drive a sustained recovery. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

PortandTerminal.com, November 11, 2019

Japan is dealing with a major shortage of truck drivers, with three open jobs for every applicant. The lack of truck drivers is now causing shipping companies such as Hapag-Lloyd serious delays at Japanese ports

TOKYO, JAPAN – Hapag-Lloyd is reporting that a serious trucker shortage in Japan is affecting the delivery of import/export containers to and from both the Tokyo and Kobe Ports.

Hapag-Lloyd says that the current dwell time for import containers at Tokyo port exceeds ten days and that they expect the situation to continue for the coming months.

Customers are being asked to consider taking delivery of their containers directly from the ports.

Japan’s public and private sectors are boosting efforts to counter a lack of truck drivers in the country, which is becoming increasingly serious amid a rise in the number of parcel deliveries due to the popularity of online shopping.

According to the Railway Freight Association, Japan is expected to suffer a lack of about 280,000 truck drivers in 2028.

Truckers wanted: Human or Robots welcome

With an ageing population and a growing shortage of drivers, Japan is a country where autonomous transportation services would seem to have a bright future.

The average trucker in Saitama, north of Tokyo, is 47 and few young people have any interest in replacing the swelling flow of retirees. 

“Driver shortages are getting worse year by year,” says Kazuyuki Uchida, chairman of the Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives in Hokkaido.

“I hope self-driving technology will be realized soon as (driver shortages) will affect the logistics of farm products in Hokkaido,” he added.

“Autonomous vehicles will need at least 10 more years to spread in Japan. Addressing transportation shortages, especially in the outskirts of big cities, will be very challenging.”

Once unheard of in Japan’s male-dominated trucking industry, female drivers such as 24-year-old Yukino Takanashi are starting to enter into the trucking industry to help meet the demand for truckers

Autonomous trucks are one solution but will take time to implement. Another solution is to make it easier for inexperienced drivers to become truckers. In April, Hino Motors Ltd., Japan’s largest truck maker, announced a new truck equipped with driving assistance functions including a rearview camera, in an effort to help inexperienced drivers.

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