In a proactive response to the anticipated “2024 problem” of an impending shortage of truck drivers, Japan’s trucking sector is taking measures to enhance drivers’ sleep quality. These efforts come as the industry grapples with an anticipated shortage of drivers and prepares to adapt to new overtime regulations set to be enforced by April 2024.
Recognizing that truck drivers’ working hours tend to exceed industry averages by approximately 20%, logistics companies are stepping forward with innovative solutions. With an increasing demand for frequent deliveries due to a surge in small-lot shipments, the sector acknowledges the pressing need to address sleep deprivation concerns to avert potential health problems and an elevated risk of road accidents.
As part of its strategic response, Japan is set to cap truck drivers’ annual overtime at 960 hours, starting from April 2024. However, there are concerns that such regulations might exacerbate the driver shortage crisis and negatively impact their working conditions. Consequently, the industry is compelled to find solutions that cater to both the business interests and the well-being of the drivers.
One significant development occurred in mid-July when Ryobi Holdings, a logistics and transportation services provider located in Okayama Prefecture, initiated a program in collaboration with Teijin Frontier to enhance drivers’ sleep quality using advanced sleep-tracking devices.
Around 50 drivers have enrolled in this initiative, including experienced drivers who have undergone sleep apnea syndrome screening and newcomers to the industry. Teijin Frontier has equipped their mattresses with specialized devices to monitor key sleep metrics such as respiratory and heart rates, as well as the frequency of movements during sleep.
Employing the data collected through these devices, a dedicated smartphone application communicates personalized messages to the drivers. For instance, if a driver went to bed late or appears to be encountering difficulties falling asleep, the app provides relevant feedback.
Ryobi Holdings aims to leverage the collected data to gauge the sleep quality of its drivers. An official from the company explained that these insights make it easier for them to assess the sufficiency of drivers’ sleep and engage in conversations with them regarding their overall health.
Another instance of innovation in this arena comes from Hanna, a trucking company based in Nara. Collaborating with a health technology firm, Hanna initiated an experiment aimed at quantitatively measuring drivers’ sleep data.
Under this initiative, drivers are encouraged to wear bracelet-shaped wearable devices. These devices collect and analyze sleep-related data, both during day and night shifts. Hanna envisions this trial as the foundation for a system capable of automatically evaluating sleep quality, facilitating a proactive approach towards drivers’ well-being.
The Japanese trucking industry’s proactive stance towards addressing drivers’ sleep quality signifies its commitment to ensuring the safety and efficacy of transportation operations. These initiatives not only safeguard drivers’ health but also contribute to overall road safety and the optimization of logistics practices.