The Yomiuri Shimbun They are forced to wait for hours at factories where they pick up cargo. They are pressed into helping load and unload their cargo. Truck drivers are saddled with various incidental tasks on a daily basis.
New rules have been introduced that stipulate a contract must specify the charges for each individual task. These rules should be appropriately applied and lead to improved working conditions for truck drivers.
This month, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry put into force the revised clauses of standard freight transportation contracts. This will be a model for contracts signed between cargo owners and the transport operators who make their rounds to factories and warehouses.
Under the new rules, a “standby time charge” for when a driver is waiting to pick up cargo, a freight “loading charge” and “unloading charge” and other costs arising during operations aside from transporting cargo are billed as separate items.
Previously, these costs were conventionally lumped together under the name of “freight charges.” In the transport industry, there were complaints that drivers doing these incidental tasks were essentially “working for nothing.” It had been pointed out that because there was no impact on freight charges even if cargo owners made drivers wait for a long time, this contributed to the drivers’ long working hours.
Clearly stating a segmented breakdown of the work involved in the contract will spare drivers from excessive workloads and unfairly underpriced contracts. Those aims are reasonable.
The freight transport industry is facing an aging workforce and shortages of applicants to an even greater degree than other industries. One cause of this is the long hours spent on the job. Drivers’ annual working hours are 20 percent longer than the average for all industries.
Ensure stable delivery
The new rules are a method for including additional charges for the time spent on each task. Cargo owners will become more sensitive to holding up drivers, so this can be expected to help rectify their long working hours.
The transport industry, which has many small and midsize companies, holds a weak position when it comes to dealing with major cargo owners. The transport industry itself also is multilayered with many subcontractors. The vital thing is to ensure cargo owners and prime contractors respect the intent of the rules and provide drivers fair compensation for their work without fail.
In many cases of truck freight, percentage commissions and performance-based pay systems are used for the drivers. It is essential to accurately grasp all the work done by a driver and the time required to do it.
These new rules designed to ensure appropriate payments for truck drivers are also expected to encourage the industry to actively divert management resources more toward making improvements in the labor environment.
In addition to greater consideration for drivers already behind the wheel, efforts helpful in eliminating the labor shortage also are needed. Establishing working arrangements that make it easier to attract women and young people to the industry and offering better training appear to be the urgent tasks that need to be dealt with.
In cases when cargo owners face higher payments due to revised transportation costs, the possibility this could be passed on through higher retail prices cannot be ruled out.
If these costs are shifted to the distribution process to avoid increasing the burden placed on consumers, the stable delivery of goods could be jeopardized. Serious thought also must be given to this reality.