Japan's overtime cap for truckers forces firms to adapt

An overtime cap for truck drivers in Japan took effect with the start of the new fiscal year on April 1. The move is aimed at improving working conditions for truckers and is prompting businesses to find more efficient ways to transport their goods.

One private think tank estimates that if no measures are taken, the overtime cap could reduce haulage capacity by about 35 percent by 2030.

Major convenience store chain Lawson cut deliveries of boxed meals to some of its stores from three times a day to two, starting in December.

Rival FamilyMart has been tapping the logistics network of Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan since February to supply some of its stores near Tokyo.
Other businesses are switching from road to rail. One cattle feed producer in the northern dairy region of Hokkaido now uses trains to ship feed for part of the journey to a storage facility.

The round-trip of over 600 kilometers takes more than 10 hours by road, but the new overtime limit means a single driver can no longer cover the journey. Using trains for some of the route means the driving time can be shortened to roughly four hours.

The Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives is organizing the project. A cooperative official, Kobayashi Tetsuo, said " We are doing this in an effort to continue sustainable transportation. We hope to expand this shipping method with the cooperation of other companies."