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Trucker Overtime Limits: Addressing Workload but Creating the “2024 Problem” in Japan

Trucker Overtime Limits: Addressing Workload but Creating the “2024 Problem” in Japan

by Wayne Yoshida Senior Talent Acquisition & Attraction Manager Mekong, North East Asia & Oceania, A.P. Moller – Maersk

Japan is implementing significant changes to improve working conditions for truck drivers. As of April 2024, a new regulation will cap annual overtime for truckers at 960 hours. This translates to roughly 18 hours of overtime per week, a major reduction from the current average.

While this change aims to address the trucking industry’s notorious long hours and attract new drivers, it’s also causing concern. The potential impact on logistics has been dubbed the “2024 problem.” Here’s why:

  • Reduced Delivery Capacity: With less overtime, truck drivers will handle fewer deliveries. This could lead to delays and disruptions in the supply chain, impacting everything from groceries to manufactured goods.
  • Labor Shortage Concerns: The trucking industry already faces a labor shortage. The new regulations might exacerbate this issue, making it even harder to find qualified drivers.

 

 

The urgency for change is underscored by the alarming health risks associated with current working conditions. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of those suffering from brain or heart disease in the overland transportation industry recognized as victims of work-related accidents rose to 56 in fiscal 2021. This was the highest of any industry, and constituted roughly a third of all 172 such claims.

 

A Systemic Issue: Long Hours, Low Pay

The long hours are driven by a systemic imbalance. Working hours by truckers in Japan are around 20% longer than the average in all industries, while the average pay is about 10% lower. Drivers are forced to work long hours simply to earn a stable income.

In revisions to labor law in April 2019, 720 hours was set as the yearly limit for overtime work. However, the logistics industry was given a five-year delay for its implementation, as long hours had become unavoidable due to a chronic shortage of labor. Even after the new regulations take effect, truckers will have a much higher overtime limit than other workers, at 960 hours per year.

 

Challenges and Countermeasures

There are fears, however, that the new limits will make some deliveries unfeasible. Tokyo-based Nomura Research Institute Ltd. has estimated it will be unable to transport about 28% of scheduled deliveries by 2025, rising to around 35% by 2030. The national government responded by setting up an expert panel in September 2022 to come up with countermeasures.

An interim report released this February offered some solutions. It urged shippers to reduce “cargo waiting,” where truck drivers are forced to wait for long periods at the convenience of shippers and distribution facilities. The report also called for reducing truckers’ workloads for cargo handling tasks such as loading, unloading and placing items on display.

The success of these measures remains to be seen. Only time will tell if Japan can navigate the “2024 problem” and achieve a balance between better working conditions for truck drivers and a smooth-running logistics system.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Yoshida
Senior Talent Acquisition & Attraction Manager Mekong, North East Asia & Oceania, A.P. Moller – Maersk

A talent magnet in the world of logistics, Wayne is a Senior Talent Acquisition and Attraction Manager at A.P. Moller – Maersk.  With over a decade of expertise in executive recruitment, Wayne excels at attracting top contenders in the supply chain and logistics industry. Overseeing recruitment strategies for Maersk’s Northeast Asia , Oceania & Mekong Area regions, Wayne works closely with stakeholders to identify hiring needs and build a captivating employer brand for Maersk. From crafting social media campaigns to executing recruitment events, Wayne is a strategic leader passionate about building a world-class talent pool at Maersk.

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