SPECIAL FEATURE: Japan Seeks Partners in Eco Project

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By Taro Ichikawa

TOKYO - Japanese logistics enterprises have approached their counterparts in Germany to explore possibilities of learning from each other's experiences the best ways to exercise social and environmental responsibility in managing smooth flow of goods.

Logistics enterprises in Germany contribute some 7.5 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) with an annual turnover of 150 billion Euros, and are blessed with a growth rate of 6 percent a year.
This booming sector of the economy provides jobs to some 170,000 people, comprising 9 percent of the total workforce in the national capital region Berlin-Brandenburg, which serves as a transportation hub not only for Russia and Poland but also for destinations such as Brussels and Milan.

Against this backdrop, a delegation of the Japanese logistics companies' representatives belonging to the Tokyo Trucking Association (TTA), led by its vice president Junichi Nagai, met with the Transport and Logistics Association (Verband Verkehr und Logistik-VVL) in Berlin in September 2011. TTA is presided over by Kazuo Ohtaka.

VVL represents the interests of a large number of companies on the ground, which employ 12,000 persons, and promotes education and training of young people working or interested in a job in the logistics sector.

"Our member companies provide jobs that bridge hi-tech and personal initiative," thus enabling young people not to become slaves of technology but use technology as a tool, VVL director general Karl-Dieter Martens told the delegation.

"This was an extremely useful exchange of information among professionals," said Nagai, who heads the Nagai Transportation Company, set up by his father after World War II, which, he added, is committed to corporate social responsibility.

Martens was impressed by kangaroo as the company's logo that underlines its philosophy. Like the kangaroo pouch pocket that provides a place of shelter for the young after they are born, the Company's truckers move their cargo with great care, explained Nagai.

The VVL managing director showed a keen interest in the Green Eco Project [www.tta-gep.jp] presented by Keiji Endo, General Manager of TTA Environment Department.

The significance of the project is underlined by the fact that Asia-Pacific already has the largest number of motorized vehicles in the world and if the present trend continues, the region would in the coming years have more automobiles than Europe and North America combined.

In Japan alone, the number of vehicles has increased from 8.12 million in 1966 to nearly 79 million in 2009. Of these 54 percent are passenger vehicles, 34 percent light-duty vehicles, and 8 percent trucks. The rest are motorcycles and buses.
At the same time, the number of logistic companies has been rising. "Presently, we have more than 60,000 logistic companies, which is a 50 percent increase on the 1990s," Endo said.

He pointed out that 99 percent of the companies in Japan own less than 100 trucks, and 76 percent of all the companies are small-scale enterprises owning less than 20 vehicles.

As part of environmental regulations for diesel engines, the national Automobile NOx /PM Law aims at curbing nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions. PM is a small discrete mass of solid or liquid matter that remains individually dispersed in gas or liquid emissions usually considered to be an atmospheric pollutant.

To avoid such emissions, large trucks more than nine years old and small ones older than eight years are not allowed to be registered in Tokyo since 2003, regardless of how many kilometers they have covered.

In Tokyo, according to a more stringent regulation, a vehicle older than seven years must either install a diesel particulate matter filter (DPF) or buy a new automobile. Those who violate this regulation are penalized.

As a result of this directive, all measurement stations in Tokyo had confirmed that the pollution level had been improved upon 2005. The air became cleaner and cleaner, and the sky is looking blue, said Endo.
However, small and medium-sized companies had to pay a heavy price for this regulation. They were forced to buy a costly DPF or a brand new truck. As a result, the membership of the Tokyo Trucking Association suffered a decline of 20 percent. Also the number of trucks had decreased by more than 20 percent since 2003.

'The Revised Energy Conservation Law' is another tool to protect environment. This law obliged trucking companies to regularly report their CO2 emissions. "But small enterprises are not in a position to collect and control such data, particularly as 99 percent of trucking companies are small and medium-sized," Endo added.

Against this backdrop, the Tokyo Trucking Association launched a new project called the ‘Green Eco Project’. Environmentally friendly driving called Eco-driving became the linchpin of the project underlining Corporate Social Responsibility of logistic enterprises for environment.

According to a survey, the practice of Eco-driving resulted in the reduction of nitrogen oxides emissions by 15 percent and CO2 emissions by 20 percent.

The Green Eco project has four key aspects: sustainability; reasonable costs; accuracy of data collected; and, above all, the activities should be such that drivers are kept motivated.

VVL's Martens was impressed to hear that the practical tools deployed are not internet-based but involve posters and stickers for members to share their motivations with each other.

The truckers write data in the check list by hand because it is an economic way of record keeping. Besides, by keeping track of such sheets, each member can easily see improvements of fuel efficiency and reductions in traffic accidents.

An important plank of the project is Green-Eco-driving education. Good drivers are given recognition as a means of motivation. Managers are involved in the project on an equal footing, and have the possibility to take part in seminars seven times a year.

Endo reported that the project had made great strides: member participation has been on the rise every year. By July 2011, over 530 companies and more than 12,214 vehicles participated in the Green Eco project.

In addition, fuel consumption was reduced over the past four years – the fuel saved was equivalent to what would have been used by 546 large-sized tank trucks. The savings were worth about US$14.40 million or about 10 million Euros.

The reduction of fuel consumed implied a reduction in 22,888 tons CO2 emissions or equivalent to 1,635,000 cedar trees forested. Also the number of traffic accidents declined by 40 percent over a period of four years.

"We can say that this Project has made a great achievement not only in terms of national economy but also of the society as a whole," Endo told VVL, adding that the next step would be to benchmark fuel efficiency database for each type of vehicle.

"In Japan, we have many advanced devices to support the practice of Eco-driving, such as Digital Taco-graph or Drive recorders," he said.

However, the Green Eco Project neither requires huge financial investment nor hi-tech. All that it needs is a piece of paper called Driving Management Sheet, and a pen to start with – and all this to protect the environment, reduce fuel costs, bring about a decrease in the number of traffic accidents and foster better communication among company co-workers.

This year being the 150th anniversary of the establishment of official relations be-tween Japan and Germany, Endo hopes the TTA delegation's visit to Berlin will stimu-late fruitful exchanges between logistics enterprises of the two countries.

Tokyo Trucking Association (TTA) http://www.totokyo.or.jp/ Verband Verkehr und Logistik-VVL http://www.vsbberlin.de/

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