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Japan's crackdown on truck driver overtime raises fears of economic breakdown

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By Mariko Katsumura and Satoshi Sugiyama

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the government will limit truck drivers' annual overtime to 960 hours, among other reforms officials say are meant to improve the job's notoriously gruelling conditions and make it more attractive.

Why only for truck driver, many jobs in Japan have long overtime some of them even being unpaid.

https://japantoday.com/category/crime/illegal-amounts-of-overtime-going-on-at-37-percent-of-japanese-companies-in-government-inspections

-5 ( +17 / -22 )

If your business requires staff to work "overtime" then it's not overtime, it's just "time".

17 ( +27 / -10 )

Why only for truck driver

Because a sleep-deprived and fatigued driver is a dangerous threat to everyone else on the road.

Drivers such as Tomita say the law will instead lead to an exodus from an occupation where most need those extra hours to pay the bills.

That would be a positive. The operators would then have to raise wages to make the job more attractive. It's a principle called "supply and demand," which seems little understood by Japanese workers and businesses.

21 ( +31 / -10 )

Japan’s economy is a broken system if it relies on ‘notoriously gruelling’ overtime from not only truck drivers but many other business sectors.

6 ( +29 / -23 )

Drivers such as Tomita say the law will instead lead to an exodus from an occupation where most need those extra hours to pay the bills.

Remember the time, in the not too distant past, within the memory of maybe your parents, when a man could do a 9 to 5, clock out, have a wife at home and a mortgage, almost paid up, and pay for children's education?

Pepperidge Farms remembers.

The domesticity may be sexist and outdated, but there is a definite connection between declining standards of living and overwork and neo-liberal, pro-business "free market reforms " that took place in the 80's and 90's.

And these truck drivers are probably not prepared for the coming wave of ML automation either.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

Sleep is important. Is right the government is cracking down on too much overtime for these truck drivers. Too many lethal accidents happen on the road every year due to these drivers either suddenly falling unconscious due to overwork or are going too fast to able to stop in time

27 ( +28 / -1 )

Good old Japan...any hint of any reform anywhere always " raises fears". To prevent " fears" of driver exodus how about raising their base wages so they make enough even without the gruelling overtime. No doubt transport companies " fear " that idea more than anything.

0 ( +26 / -26 )

Long driving without enough rest is too dangerous. Working environment transformation, safe and paid enough, is required in this industry.

Fast delivery seems to be convenient but are the consumers really requiring the fast delivery at this high level?

Yesterday morning, I ordered a bandaid in the morning via Amazon Prime, the product was delivered in the evening. Yes it is surprising and convenient but I don’t care about quick shipping.

Using more local products, prioritizing fast delivery categories, add value and increase wage of truck drivers may be some solutions.

It’s time to redesign how we produce, deliver and consume.

23 ( +26 / -3 )

If this man's story is true and I am sure is true, it means this will be a win for him because companies will pay more if he and other threaten to leave their jobs if their salaries go down because of lack of hours and they will get better wages and have more time to be with their families.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Why only for truck driver

The rules to limit overtime work have already been in effect. Today salarymen cannot really work overtime longer than 60 hours a month.

The problem is that the workload is unchanged. You see now they need to make it by working overtime secretly without overtime pay. Only companies are happy with reducing extra overtime payment and the gov is satisfied with nominally reduced labor hours.

Here they go again.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

I’ve seen trucks on their sides, early morning in Japan and was nearly sideswiped by a truck driver coming out of Kyoto once in the early morning too

Japan needs to slow down and allow people to lead less stress free lives

And finally the LDP doing some positive and necessary action which is quite amazing

7 ( +12 / -5 )

This shows how fickle the Japanese economy really is. Transport compamies are in a cut throat competition to get the contracts. As a result they pay their drivers the bare minimum wage which forces them to work stupid amounts of overtime to make ends meet. If they introduce overtime caps many drivers will have to quit and find other employment that pays more. This is a scenario that is repeated across many industries and not just limited to truck drivers. No salary growth and increased cost of living is killing the Japanese economy. Salaries are the same (or lower) than they were twenty years ago, but the cost of living has increased by at least 50% over the same period. Prices going up and salaries going down can only spell doom for the Japanese economy and all those trying to survive in 'the rich country'.

-2 ( +16 / -18 )

This typically blatant exploitation of the Japanese working class could result in some real ugly politics in future, like the rise of an authoritarian Japanese demagogue to lead a MANGA (Make Nippon...etc.) movement mushrooming out of an economic wasteland.

-11 ( +5 / -16 )

and father of a 3-year-old

Talk about poor decision making.

-17 ( +2 / -19 )

If only Japan had some really fast, reliable trains that could carry freight long distance.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Why do you think amphetamines are so popular in Japan?

But, they really need to adopt the western practices for package delivery. You know, wrong house, throw it on the ground and break it, dump them beside a road somewhere, contract it out to fly by night companies who contract it out to another company until they get it delivered (sometimes) by the cheapest people, sometimes in their cars.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

GBR48

Unfortunately for logistics/transport It really work doesn’t work for small amounts, coming from hundreds, if not thousands of different suppliers when time is critical, like fresh food. And then at the other end, it also needs to be offloaded onto hundreds of different trucks and go to hundred of different destinations.

The loading and unloading times would be very, very long. This is what happens at container ship ports, despite their awesome computerized systems these days, where the one ship has thousands of containers from China, each one needing a different truck to go distinctly different end locations… it takes days and days, with many truck drivers waiting hours, if not days for their containers to be loaded.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

On April 1, 2024, the government will limit truck drivers' annual overtime to 960 hours, among other reforms officials say are meant to improve the job's notoriously gruelling conditions and make it more attractive.

Simple math here, this comes out to 80 hours a month or roughly 20 hours a week, meaning 4 hours a day.

Driving a truck or any vehicle, on average, 12 hours a day, is just asking for accidents to happen!

Oh and I know in some places, leastwise around me, taxi drivers are doing the same thing, but no one seems to care about them!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

capitalism at its best...just to make long story short...

0 ( +4 / -4 )

On April 1, 2024, the government will limit truck drivers' annual overtime to 960 hours, among other reforms officials say are meant to improve the job's notoriously gruelling conditions and make it more attractive.

That is still very high on top of the normal hours making 12-hour driving days.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japan’s economy is a broken system if it relies on ‘notoriously gruelling’ overtime from not only truck drivers but many other business sectors.

Yup, and they even reduce your base pay just so they can add that sneaky fixed overtime pay in your monthly salary which is quite a big portion.

Remember the time, in the not too distant past, within the memory of maybe your parents, when a man could do a 9 to 5, clock out, have a wife at home and a mortgage, almost paid up, and pay for children's education?

Do 9-5 jobs still exist in Japan? I only know 9-6.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

I have mad respect for truck drivers here, having to drive those narrow roads, dealing with tailgaiting, dealing with traffic, dealing with clueless pedestrians and cyclists on the road. Hope they are able to get the pay increase they deserve!

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Simple solution that many workers in long hour jobs are already doing.

Work 40 hours of overtime but only record 10!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

dagon

Today 07:19 am JST

9 to 5 jobs? Neo-liberal businesses?

You obviously don't live in Japan and likely never have.

Japanese workers have been putting in 12-18 hour work days, through many sectors of the economy, for decades.

The cure to the truck driver over extended work day, which is primarily a safety issue, is to require better base pay rates from the operators. That would encourage more drivers, reduce the need for those drivers to unsafely drive when they are far too tired to, and keep the goods rolling.

The same approach was applied to airline pilots long ago, before neo-liberalism was an excuse for anyone not wanting change, and has saved lives.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

If you depend on overtime hours to survive, there is a big problem with that job.

This is good news. As some already stated, wages will have to go up in order to keep the employees and to find new ones.

It's dangerous to have drivers overworking, as it's a risk for pedestrians other drivers.

Japanese need to be able to survive in a 40 hours/week job. Have more free time for themselves and for their families (if they have). No more legal modern slavery.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

9 to 5 jobs? Neo-liberal businesses?

You obviously don't live in Japan and likely never have.

Japanese workers have been putting in 12-18 hour work days, through many sectors of the economy, for decades.

大爆笑 at you "Ken Holcomb".

Reading comprehension may be your weakness it appears.

Excessive overtime has been a feature of Japanese work culture for ages but up until the end of the Bubble bursting it was rewarded with remunerations that allowed for a comfortable domesticity , stable employment and benefits.

Koizumi and the bubble bursting initiated a consolidation of benefits to rentiers across economic sectors , including transport. Neo-liberal trickle down.

Neo-liberal deregulation is what has increased the stress and danger to truckers, and worsened their economic situations.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Trucking will be extremely efficient and is extremely competitive. On the expressway at night-time, there are always big tailbacks of trucks at service areas until the late night ETC discounts start. Some trucks park up as early as 8pm for this. By 11pm, there are trucks on the hard shoulder.

It's not reported here, but a further problem is that the truck license in Japan is now split into weight divisions (chuu-gata etc) so you can't just get one license and drive an 11-tonner like the old days. My wife has the old o-gata license, so I joke about her going out to earn if we're ever hard up. Along with the low pay, the new license makes it harder for people to enter the industry. If you do have a license, I'm pretty sure the courier companies pay their final mile delivery drivers way more than 4.5 million a year.

If you make truckers work all day, expect them to hammer black coffee and the black black caffeine chewing gum all day, and then one cup sake when its time for forty winks in the cab. That truck that mowed the kids on the walk to school was driven by a guy who'd been drinking, and one reason is for them to drink is to catch some sleep.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One thing I've noticed about most Japanese trucks is that they lack a "sleeper" unlike Western and European trucks or cabovers. Its almost as if owners/companies are saying "Workers shouldn't be sleeping in their trucks" yet you see them sleeping in the front seats all the time.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

raises fears of economic breakdown

Well, look around everywhere in developed economies globally, they just want and do everything they can for an economic breakdown. Haven’t you even noticed it? But back to the topic headline and smaller puzzle pieces. In my home country they already discuss a four days working week , also strictly limiting the weight of delivery parcels to 20 kilograms and of course deliveries have already been thinned out to a few days of weekdays instead of everyday deliveries including weekends as it has been before.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Or……..give truckers decent wages and benefits, so that they wouldn’t feel the need to work overtime.

and maybe you could actually attract young new drivers in the process?

The solutions to all these “labor shortage” and “overtime” issues are very simple.

companies just need to cut the crap and pay the workers their real

worth

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Righteous "They" do use rail transport. If all the trucking were to be moved to rail, it most certainly would not be faster. Also, rail only takes the load as far as the rail goes, trucks would need to move the load to warehouses, factories, stores, etc.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Fresh food produce can't be transported b rail because of the loading and unloading times.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As many people here pointed out, me too,I couldn't care less about the drivers complaining about a forced reduction of overtime hours. What a load of bull faeces! If that leads to everyone leaving the job they'll have to increase the salary and make it more attractive for the rest. Automated driving for trucks is also just around the corner too. But it'll for sure contribute to road safety, which as a driver is about the only thing I care about.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

How about limiting travel time to work, my wifes company moved and now it’s a 2.5 hour journey eachway ! She’s allways tired, grumpy and unapprochable weekdays. Life is hell for the whole family and most families at the plant too I bet.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The solutions to all these “labor shortage” and “overtime” issues are very simple. Companies just need to cut the crap and pay the workers their real worth

That's true. It doesn't happen though because free markets are a myth. Prices are not set by supply and demand alone.

Drivers make 4.46 million yen a year on average. That is about 10% below the average for all industries despite working 20% longer hours.

For the man in the story, a "twenty-year" veteran, that's not enough to support a family with a child. Interestingly though, it is still effectively 20,000 yen a day and I bet a lot of people think that is a lot of money. There are a lot of people in Japan who seem to think 1200 yen a hour is "good money" for a grown woman doing office work. Such people have obviously never tried paying a family's bills using 1200 yen an hour pay.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One can see the worker/driver asking to carry on being the peasant for some main CEO/daimyo.

Change is the worst fear for most Japanese.

A complete overhaul of the system is needed because technology has improved so much.

Indeed most products don't need to be a next day delivery and anyway, in view of the shrinking speed of population, there is no way they can keep up that level.

Over overtime is killing all social relationships one can get.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

raise wages then, can't anyone try that??

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If you eat more potatoes instead of dwindling endangered fish stocks then you don't need same day delivery

0 ( +0 / -0 )

it's only been recent Japan times that have had the luxury of so much daily fish consumption. Previous generations of Okinawans, the ones with the longest lifespan, (not current KFC Okinawans) ate/eat a mostly vegetarian purple potato diet with very low fish intake, like 3%. Also Japan of antiquity ate a predominately vegetarian diet too likewise with very low meat, if at all. Very different than today. It's strange that vegetarian and vegan have to be explained in Japan so much when it used to be the normal healthy diet

The changes in population density and numbers are an opportunity to restore food traditions and thus reasonable delivery methods to conditions that are more sustainable, and equitable for the workers too.

Fish era is certainly coming to a middle with depleting fish stocks. Japan can turn this problem into an opportunity of more locally grown vegetables, including the amazing purple potatoes, before the fish industry collapses from overfishing. Round two, Japan has done it before

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If you work a job like that, you should make more money.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the US, from experience, there are sleeper cabs, with a second area behind the driver's seat, where one can have a small refrigerator, cooktop, please to sleep, and some have a shower . . . .

1 ( +1 / -0 )

 If that leads to everyone leaving the job they'll have to increase the salary and make it more attractive for the rest.

No. They'll just do what they've done to English teaching in Japan; hire cheap Filipinos to drive the trucks.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Truckers are the life line of the economy how else are you going to get things from the ports to the stores. If the truckers stop watch the store shelves go bare.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why only for truck driver, many jobs in Japan have long overtime some of them even being unpaid.

Safety. It is the kind of job where a driver falling asleep on the job can cause death, serious injuries and major property damage.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Spread out for a year, that would be 80 hours per month of overtime. 8.5 hours per day, seven days per week.

Logistically, an ideal system is to have exchange terminals throughout the country. Trucks can be automated from terminal to terminal. Drivers pick up and deliver to and from terminals.

An automated lane along the toll roads is not technically challenging. If you can make golf carts follow a buried line and stop before hitting anything in front of it for the last 40 years, you can do it with trucks.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Pay a living wage without the extra hours would make the occupation more attractive. Unfortunately, greed and autonomy will rule the day. Get out now before you get run over...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Pay a living wage without the extra hours would make the occupation more attractive. Unfortunately, greed and autonomy will rule the day. Get out now before you get run over...

Ridiculous working hours and inadequate pay seem to be the lot of truck drivers all over the world. It is certainly true in the US, compounded by firms looking for any excuse to cheat drivers of their pay.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

No one here has driven truck. The industry is competitive and government decrees will not change that. This will simply cause drivers to find another profession. Because the customer will not pay.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

No one here has driven truck.

Are you sure about that sunshine? I paid for grad school driving gasoline tank trucks all night, ten to twelve hour shifts delivering gas stations, county maintenance yards, fire stations, construction sites crawling over lines of a dozen earth movers to refuel them, running jet fuel to airports and the like. I did that for a measly $11 to $12 an hour with no overtime, no benefits, no paid sick time and no paid vacations. After I earned my degree I worked for a time in transportation management but every firm I worked for without exception, including FedEx, was either cheating their drivers, their customers, their suppliers, their warehouse staff, the tax man or all of the above. If you are honest it drains your soul to work for dishonest employers who naturally expect you will break the law for them. And when you refuse you would think from their response you attacked the owners wife and kids. I know every game these companies play from direct personal experience. I have dead friends because companies we worked for would not obey the law and either cut corners repairing the cargo tanks of petroleum tankers (big FOOM and a dead welder) or worked people too many hours and they went nighty night on the freeway driving a full load of gasoline (news at 11:00). The owner of the company who had the explosion went to jail and was barred from the industry. A decade later he had another tank truck company and another explosion that killed another guy doing bootleg illegal welding on his trucks that he could not admit to owning (he had a shadow owner). Then while out on bail awaiting trial he cheated on covid relief payments, saying he didn't fire people to qualify for the payments when in fact he had fired everyone. I haven't been able to find out what the eventual sentence was for his most recent crimes. The first dead welder got him a year and a half in a Federal prison. I guess that wasn't enough to straighten him out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I personally know 3 totally different truck drivers in NA. One is a long haul big rig, he is gone 4 straight days a week, but makes close to USD$90k a year. A fed-ex inner city driver, makes USD$27 per hour. And, a government mail-person. Makes USD$45k a year. (Second year on job)

Why are we arguing truck drivers are underpaid everywhere? They aren't, they are well compensated most of the time. Except for in Japan, that is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Fifty-cents per mile has long been the wage paid for over-the-road longhaul (although that is changing). 'When the wheels aren't turning, the driver ain't earning.' I am another vote in refute of the statement, "No one here has driven [a] truck."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why are we arguing truck drivers are underpaid everywhere? They aren't, they are well compensated most of the time. 

By the time most port truckers, the trucks hauling containers out of and into our big ports, pay for fuel. tires, maintenance, insurance, registration, etc., they are luck to clearn $25,000 per year. I knew plenty of port truckers sleeping in their trucks because they couldn't afford to rent. Three hour delay in line at the port? You do that for free. Then you get $150 for a for a trip that takes four hours to turn around in urban freeway traffic, combined with a wait at the delivery dock. For a lot of truckers it's a tough life.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm going to assume that a lot of these trucking companies have a hierarchy and that they have many older staff that no longer drive, but sit in an office all day and collect a higher salary. Perhaps they'll (and the boss) will have to go back to driving if there is a severe shortage of drivers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah, sorry... there's absolutely no way they are ending overtime. They will end it being reported and paid, but demand it still be done.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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