TOKYO -- Retail group Aeon and health and beauty products maker Kao will take a new approach to ground shipping that the government promotes as a way to cope with Japan's worsening shortage of truck drivers.
The system works like a relay. Aeon trucks leaving greater Tokyo meet Kao trucks departing from the Nagoya area, about halfway between the two regions, in Shizuoka Prefecture.
There, the trucks' tractor units exchange their 20-ton trailers. The drivers then make the return trip, carrying each other's original shipments to their respective distribution centers.
Aeon trucks now make five trips a week to the Nagoya area, while Kao trucks make four in the other direction. For starters, the two companies will coordinate only one of these runs.
Drivers making the Tokyo-Nagoya run normally spend one night away from home. The relay system will allow them to make day trips, saving money on accommodations and other expenses. Aeon and Kao estimate their partnership will cut costs on this route by about 30%. The two companies will split any profits resulting from the savings.
Aeon and Kao will try to enlist others to join their effort. Japan's transport ministry wants a broad range of companies to relay shipments to get around the bottleneck created by a shortage of truckers. The ratio of job offers to applicants for drivers of all kinds came to 2.14 in April, far above the level of 1.12 for all industries, according to the ministry.