Business / Corporate

Yamato Transport looks at ways to ease burdens on drivers as online purchases skyrocket

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

Amid its annual shunto spring wage negotiations, major courier firm Yamato Transport Co. said Wednesday it may seek to implement measures to ease burdens placed on delivery drivers to improve working conditions.

Under consideration is a plan that would eliminate one of the time slots in which parcels are delivered. Currently, there are six such periods: before noon, noon to 2 p.m., 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Reports say the firm may drop the noon to 2 p.m. option to allow drivers to take lunch breaks.

However, Momoko Ikeda, a company spokeswoman, stressed that the idea has yet to be discussed.

“The labor union, as it does every year, has demanded we improve the working environment for the drivers or raise their salaries,” said Ikeda. “We are right in the middle of those discussions.”

To show it is sincere about improving working conditions, the company launched a department dedicated to that purpose on Feb. 1.

Ikeda said making improvements is necessary, especially for drivers, since delivery numbers are skyrocketing due to the growing popularity of purchases from e-commerce sites.

Although major rival Sagawa Express Co. cut its contract with Amazon Japan G.K. in 2013, Yamato Transport said it has no plans to follow suit.

The total number of parcels Yamato Transport expects to handle in the fiscal year ending in March is set to reach a record high. With an 8 percent rise from the previous year, the firm’s roughly 60,000 drivers are estimated to have made 1.87 billion deliveries during the period.

On top of the large number of normal deliveries, drivers must also cope with redeliveries.

According to a 2015 report from the transport ministry on the social impact of redeliveries, about 20 percent of home deliveries fail on the first attempt.

To combat the situation, Yamato Transport in 2016 invested in a venture called Packcity Japan Co. to set up parcel lockers in public areas, including train stations.

The lockers allow registered customers to pick up packages at their convenience.

Called Pudo Station, Yamato Transport along with Neopost, the majority partner, aim to place the delivery bins in 5,000 locations nationwide by 2022.

Meanwhile, the government is also making moves to bring parcel lockers into the mainstream.

Starting in April, the Environment Ministry will cover half of the cost of setting up the lockers. The current price tag is roughly ¥2 million to ¥3 million per location.

Ministry official Tatsuhito Ikematsu said the program is a part of a joint project with the transport ministry to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

“An increase in redeliveries would simply cause a surge in carbon dioxide levels,” Ikematsu said. “It is also a waste of human resources for the logistics company.”

According to the 2015 report from the transport ministry, redeliveries caused the emission of roughly 420,000 tons of carbon dioxide that year, and about 180 million man-hours were wasted.

Ikematsu said the ministry aims to help set up lockers at 500 locations by the end of March 2018.