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The transport ministry is considering setting up relay logistics bases along expressways to let semitrucks exchange cargo with the aim of reducing drivers’ workloads, informed sources said.

The initiative is also expected to be effective in lowering the risks of coronavirus infection as it can help shorten travel distance and let drivers avoid visiting where the virus is spreading, the sources said.

The rear deck of a semitruck can be separated from the cab. The trucks can exchange cargo by simply trading decks.

In 2018, Central Nippon Expressway Co. (Nexco Central), in cooperation with a logistics company, opened a relay logistics base called Connect Area Hamamatsu near the Hamamatsu Service Area on the Shin-Tomei Expressway in Shizuoka Prefecture.

To transport cargo from the Kansai region to the Kanto region, for example, the driver conventionally had to travel about 1,200 km roundtrip, spending two to three days in total. By using the relay base to exchange cargo with a driver from the Kanto region, however, a driver from the Kansai region can halve the distance to around 600 km and complete the trip within a day.

A logistics industry group has requested that such relay bases be set up across the country.

With the demand for logistics growing amid the coronavirus pandemic, the transport ministry decided to have the Panel on Infrastructure Development, which advises the transport minister, consider ways to promote the establishment of relay logistics bases, believing the initiative will lead to more efficient transportation and reduced workloads for drivers, the sources said.

Specifically, the ministry is considering setting up relay bases as facilities attached to expressways, just like service areas and gas stations, so truck drivers can use them without exiting the expressways.

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