Yes, there is global talk of robots taking over jobs from humans. There is also big media hype of drones replacing trucks as a mode of delivery of goods ordered online at Amazon and its peers.

But reality is different, at least in Japan and at least in the logistics industry. Drones will only complement the traditional delivery of goods by trucks and human truck drivers. And there is a growing shortage of exactly these humans.

Over the last months, parcel delivery service group Yamato Holdings has stopped various services offering incl. those offering super fast and out-of-regular business hours delivery. Its drivers were not able to cope with the rapid increase of demand.

Now Yamato Holdings has announced to hire 10,000 (in words ten thousand) new workers within fiscal 2017 to cope with the increasing popularity of online shopping and to at least be able to keep their current service offerings.

The decision will add further fuel to the fierce competition for truck drivers in the logistics industry, a competition which is already at a record height and worsening by the month.

A switch in the marketing strategy of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corporation, the Daimler-owned truck maker, demonstrates this. In the past, truck makers appealed directly to their existing and potential customers as you would expect. This is no longer solely the case.

Now it is truck drivers that have moved into the center of marketing activities. Safety and comfort of truck drivers is getting even more important than longevity and fuel consumption.

Mitsubishi Fuso is smart in betting on the fact that it will be rather the truck drivers deciding to work for whom than the companies deciding whom to hire.

The shortage is so severe that more and more truck drivers choose those firms, which run trucks to be judged the most comfortable for the driver. Hence customers tend to buy more and more those trucks that are most popular with their drivers.

25 years I wrote my Ph.D. thesis on the logistics industry in Japan. Labor shortage of truck-drivers was even a topic then. But it has never been as acute as now and in the years to come.

Jochen Legewie

Jochen Legewie

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