Japan mulls raising truck speed limit for faster goods deliveries

Japan will consider raising the speed limit for certain trucks, the National Police Agency said Thursday, as the country seeks to speed up deliveries and ease the impact of tougher overtime regulations for truck drivers next year.

The NPA will set up a panel of transport experts to discuss whether to increase the speed limit for trucks weighing 8 tons or more from the current 80 kilometers per hour on highways. The speed limit for smaller trucks has already been raised to 100 kph.

The panel, which includes members such as Takashi Oguchi, a traffic engineering professor at the University of Tokyo, is expected to compile its proposal by the end of the year, the agency said.

The move comes as Japan faces the so-called "2024 problem," meaning the country's transport delivery capacity is expected to drop when the new regulations from April limits truck drivers' overtime to 960 hours a year.

The country is already facing a shortage of truck drivers due to aging, poor wages and extensive working hours, while demand for goods deliveries is increasing.

The government in June compiled a policy package to tackle the expected logistics crisis, which it estimates could reduce goods deliveries by 14 percent nationwide in fiscal 2024 and by 34 percent in fiscal 2030 if left unaddressed.

The policy paper stated the government will make arrangements toward increasing the speed limit after analyzing risks such as increased traffic accidents and the viability of new safety technologies.

There were 714 traffic accidents in 2022, including 24 fatal cases, in which drivers of large trucks weighing 11 tons or more were primarily responsible, according to the NPA.

The number peaked in 2011 at 1,313, including 46 fatal cases, since comparable data became available in 2003. There were 531 accidents in 2020 and 656 in 2021.

© Kyodo News