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Fukuyama becomes Japan's first shipper to stop Sunday deliveries

Shortage of truck drivers forces logistics providers to get creative

A Fukuyama Transporting truck. Like other shippers, the company has trouble finding drivers in labor-short Japan. (Photo by Yoichi Iwata)

TOKYO -- Fukuyama Transporting will become the first Japanese logistics company to end Sunday deliveries for corporate clients, giving drivers more time off in a bid to attract workers in a severely understaffed industry.

Fukuyama will stop accepting new business clients for regular Sunday collection and delivery of packages in October and start phasing out existing customers, with plans to end regular Sunday service by January. It will maintain some operations on Sundays, such as emergency shipments on chartered trucks.

Sunday deliveries, largely of clothing and food to retailers, make up only about 1% of Fukuyama's sales. The company was also not making efficient use of truck drivers and sorters during these days. It will request that clients ship packages instead on weekdays or Saturday.

Japan's logistics sector faces a significant labor shortage. The job openings-to-applicants ratio for drivers of trucks and other vehicles is 2.86, compared to 1.47 for all occupations, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare data shows.

The lack of workers has led some parcel delivery services such as Yamato Transport, part of Yamato Holdings, and SG Holdings unit Sagawa Express to raise prices of home deliveries. Fukuyama and Seino Holdings are also looking at higher rates for corporate clients.

Fukuyama is Japan's ninth-largest overland delivery company by sales. It hopes to retain clients by expanding weekday service, such as same-day delivery nationwide.

Japan's shipping industry often provides services tailored to client needs, making it more difficult for workers to take days off than in other fields. Though Fukuyama may lose some business to competitors, it will ask clients "for their understanding that this decision is meant to secure personnel," said Shigehiro Komaru, president and CEO.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is considering limiting mail delivery to weekdays to reduce the burden on postal workers. More retail shops and restaurants are also making their businesses more worker-friendly, such as by discontinuing 24-hour operations. 

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