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  January 25th, 2017 | Written by

Japan Shifting to Trains to Move Freight

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  • Japan and U.S. trucking suffers from a shortage of truck drivers.
  • Japan's government supports the move from trucks to rail.
  • CO2 emissions from trains is one-eighth of that emitted by trucks in Japan.

Companies in Japan are switching from trucks to rail to transport freight over land. In some cases, competitors are cooperating in the venture, according to a report in the Japan Times.

The moves from on emode of transportation to the other has been prompted by the chronic shortage of truck drivers. The trucking industry in the United States also suffers from a shortage of truck drivers. According to the American Trucking Associations, that shortage amounted to 38,000 drivers in 2014.

Japan’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Ministry is supporting the move for its positive effects in reducing carbon emissions. CO2 emissions from trains is one-eighth of that emitted by trucks in Japan.

Asahi Breweries Ltd. and Kirin Brewery Co., competitors in Japan’s beer market, are cooperating to transport products made in the Kansai region to their joint logistics center in Kanazawa, in containers transiting on the Japan Freight Railway Co. Their efforts take 10,000 truck trips off the road every year. The two companies are planning on expanding their cooperation in transportation and logistics.

The logistics industry in Japan faces a serious shortage of truck drivers. Fewer young people are choosing the job, which also reflects a falling interest in automobiles among Japanese youth, according to experts. Meanwhile, those aged 50 or over now accounting for 40 percent of truck drivers in Japan.

A 26-car freight train can carry the same amount of cargo as 65 10-ton trucks. JR Freight handles almost all of railway freight in Japan.

Freight trains now enjoy about a five-percent market share of domestic cargo transportation in Japan in terms of volume. Trucks carry 50 percent and ships, 44 percent.

The transport ministry wants to increase the volume of cargo transported by trains by 20 percent in the next three years by providing subsidies to companies that jointly operate efficient transportation business models.