Japan Oks Bill To Ease Burden On Truck Drivers Amid Labor Shortage

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The Japanese government approved Tuesday a bill to improve labor conditions for truck drivers, promoting better pay and implementing measures to reduce hours worked in response to the labor shortage in the logistics industry.

The law will require prime contractors to keep documentation to track who works on their projects in a bid to crack down on cascading subcontracting which leaves the actual truck driver being paid a low wage.

Companies will be urged to reduce drivers' waiting time when loading their cargo, imposing a fine of up to 1 million yen if they do not follow the state order to make improvements.

The revisions intend to tackle a logistics shortfall, known as the "2024 problem," following the pending introduction in April of a cap on overtime worked by truck drivers to 960 hours per year, which translates to around 18 hours per week.

Having multiple subcontractors has become normalized within the industry, with the value of contracts decreasing as the work is passed on and middlemen take their cuts. The process sometimes means the prime contractor is unaware of what firm is responsible for transporting its goods.

By mandating the creation of documentation to track the contract, the government aims to improve transportation arrangements through more transparency, government officials said.

Firms will be obliged to record the names of transport companies carrying the goods and how many times the work has been subcontracted, and keep the information for one year.

Firms will also be required to document the details of the outsourced work, including the cost and whether it includes sorting the goods and compensation for such work, to ensure subcontractors are compensated accordingly.

In the revision, major firms will also be asked to come up with plans aimed at reducing loading times and then submit them as proposals to the government.

There will also be a regular reporting element enforced.
The government can impose a correction order as a consequence of insufficient progress on their plans, with the company named and shamed if the orders are not followed. The firm can be slapped with a fine if it ignores an official directive.


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