The Yomiuri ShimbunParcel delivery giant Yamato Transport Co. is considering encouraging its rivals to collaborate with it on highway transport as a means of overcoming a serious shortage of drivers, it has been learned.
The company will conduct tests on highways, including the Tomei Expressway, as early as within this year to facilitate an earlier introduction of the system. The inter-company cooperation is aimed at maintaining logistical infrastructure amid a rapid increase in the volume of deliveries triggered by the expansion of online shopping.
Under the collaborative system, a heavy truck would pull another company’s trailer behind its own on expressways, making it possible for one driver to carry two truckloads of parcels. After leaving the highway, each company would then deliver their parcels with their own trucks. The tests will use articulated trucks up to 21 meters long, as per the current regulations. At the same time, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry — which supports measures to eliminate the driver shortage — plans to lift a ban on the use of 25-meter-long articulated trucks. The industry is also eyeing their utilization in the collaborative system in the future.
The shortage of drivers in the logistics industry is becoming more serious because the volume of parcels has drastically increased in line with the expansion of online shopping. There was a driver shortfall of about 30,000 in fiscal 2010, but that will swell to about 110,000 in fiscal 2020, according to the Railway Freight Association’s future forecast.
Another factor is delivery companies being unable to secure a sufficient number of young drivers as their current drivers continue to age. In particular, the long hours involved in driving long distances on highways is deterring people.
A Yamato executive said, “We need to find ways to cope with the labor shortage [through cooperation with our competitors] until autonomous driving is introduced to our transport service.”
Yamato will cooperate with industrial groups to encourage its rival companies — likely Sagawa Express Co., Nippon Express Co. and Seino Transportation Co., among others — to join hands with it. It is also considering sharing vehicles among companies to reduce costs.