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Driver-friendly delivery trucks address labor shortage

TOKYO >> Yamato Transport Co. unveiled what it says is a greener, compact, driver-friendly electric truck that could help address the acute labor shortage in Japan’s door-to-door parcel delivery industry.

The truck, at roughly 15 feet long, 6 feet wide and 7 feet high, is small enough that it can be driven by a worker with a regular driver’s license. It will hopefully attract more female and elderly workers, and help the company adjust to the nation’s rapidly graying population.

Yamato already has small trucks that require just a regular license, but the new electric vehicle has a larger capacity.

The new vehicle can “cater to Yamato employees’ requests that they … switch from a large delivery vehicle to a small one due to their age,” said Toshizo Kurisu, Yamato’s president and CEO.

The vehicle is Japan’s first small commercial electric truck designed specifically for parcel delivery, and this month the company plans to gradually introduce 500 of the new electronic vehicles for deliveries in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama.

The vehicle’s specifications are designed to minimize physical strain on the driver and be more female- friendly, the company said.

The cargo hold can be opened from any side so drivers can unload packages without climbing into the vehicle. The height of the cargo bed eliminates the need to bend to reach parcels, easing strain on the driver’s back.

When all 500 electronic vehicles are in service, the company estimates that carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 3,500 tons annually. It wants to have about 5,000 of the vehicles on the road by 2030, replacing half of the small gasoline-powered delivery vehicles it now deploys.

The company’s announcement comes as the nation’s delivery sector faces growth in deliveries from increased online shopping and a chronic labor crunch in the transport industry.

Yamato aims to improve its work environment to attract more workers amid the acute labor shortage. Developing safer, manageable and efficient vehicles for drivers is part of those efforts, the company said.

Other firms with a focus on door-to-door deliveries are also introducing electronic vehicles, which should help curb the nation’s carbon footprint.

Japan Post Co. has said it will introduce 1,200 electric vehicles for mail and parcel deliveries in Tokyo and other major cities by the end of fiscal 2020. Mitsubishi Motors said swapping out electric vehicles for its gasoline vans will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% per vehicle.

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