Serious taxi shortage, both urban and rural areas... Sep 9 at 8:21

"I can't catch a taxi after a drinking party!"
or "There is a long line in front of the station at tourist spots!"

Recently, I often hear such words. It is Japan that socio-economic activities will resume from the corona disaster. According to research, the taxi shortage is not limited to urban areas and tourist areas. In rural areas, the lives of the elderly are also being affected. What's going on? We covered it in various places. (Ryo Sakurai, Miho Tomioka, Yudai Suzuki, Maiko Oe, Kohei Kawahara)

The trouble of the ancient capital is "taxis"

Kyoto is a tourist destination that represents Japan. On the slope leading to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, tourists who visited the taxi stand got on and off one after another.

With the recovery of inbound tourism, Kyoto is facing a taxi shortage.

Summer in Kyoto is originally a season when there are not as many tourists as spring and autumn, but this year, especially during the Obon festival, tourists mainly foreigners flocked to the festival, and there were long lines waiting for taxis in front of stations and near tourist attractions.

As the autumn tourist season begins in earnest, citizens have voiced their concerns.

Female (70s):
"Recently, I don't see taxis running in the sink anymore, and if the number of tourists increases any more, locals will not be able to take taxis."

The "Great Retirement" of the Corona Disaster

A taxi company located in Minami-ku, Kyoto.

On the day of our interview, the company's call center was receiving calls one after another. However, it is said that there are many cases where they cannot dispatch a vehicle and refuse it.

At this company, sales dropped due to the influence of the new corona, so the number of drivers decreased from 400 to about 300.

Most of the drivers who quit were over 60 years old and retired without changing jobs or returning to the company afterwards.

Even if there are vehicles left in the garage, due to the shortage of drivers, about 3% of advance reservations by phone are refused.

The company is strengthening recruitment activities as a countermeasure, but if you do not have experience as a driver, you will need to obtain a license and take training, and it will take at least one and a half months to actually start working. For this reason, it will take some time to solve the shortage of drivers.

Motoyoshi Tsutsui, President of Toei Taxi: "Not only the taxi industry,
but all industries are facing labor shortages and competing for human resources.

2% reduction in drivers

The shortage of taxis is also reflected in the data.

According to a survey by the Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations, which has more than 5000,3 member companies nationwide, the number of drivers was more than 23,2019 as of the end of March. On the other hand, at the end of March 3, before the corona disaster, there were about 29,6 people, so by comparison, it is about 20,<>, a decrease of about <>%.

The reason for the decline is thought to be a decrease in income due to a significant decrease in customers due to the spread of the new corona infection, such as a company in Kyoto, and a series of cases where drivers left their jobs due to concerns about infection in cars.

It has also been pointed out that the demand for users has increased due to the increase in opportunities to go out and the recovery in the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan, and the impact is spreading.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the average age of drivers working at taxi companies was 58.3 years old as of last year. With the aging of the population progressing, there are concerns that the number of drivers will decrease further, and the federation says that it will "continue to work to secure drivers."

Affects the feet of the elderly

Urban areas are not the only ones suffering from taxi shortages.

Located in the mountains of northern Miyazaki Prefecture, Takachiho Town has a population of about 1,1000. Local buses and community buses run once every few hours on most routes. Taxis have become an important means of transportation for elderly people who do not have a car, but there is not enough taxis.

Masato Kudo, 15, who lives in an area about 90 minutes by car from the town center, has been driving his own car for many years, but last year he returned his driver's license due to his advanced age.

Since then, he has started using taxis to go to the hospital and for shopping, but he says he can't get one.

The town is working to distribute taxi tickets worth 2,<> yen to those who return their licenses. However, there is a shortage of taxis.

Masato Kudo
: "There was a time when I had to wait for about 30 minutes when I called a taxi. For those who live far from shops, taxis are a necessary presence, so to speak, their own legs. If it was so inconvenient, I wish I hadn't returned my license."

He used to go to the town center every week, but now he has to go once a month because of the inconvenience.

During my interview, I also met an elderly woman wearing an oxygen inhaler.

This woman called a taxi on her way home from the hospital and was told, "Wait 1 to 1 minutes." There was a fear that the battery of the oxygen inhaler would run out, so he urgently called his son, who lives nearby, to send him home.

The shortage of taxis is affecting the lives and health of the elderly.

Even though there is a vehicle...

At the taxi company "Miyako Taxi Takachiho Sales Office" in the town, there were 14 drivers, 2019 fewer than in 6 before the Corona disaster.

Today, the number of people is only about half of the people needed to keep the vehicle running at full capacity. Although it has 14 small taxis, less than half of them operate during the day.

For this reason, even if there is a request for a ride, it is necessary to wait tens of minutes, sometimes one hour, depending on the time of day.

Keiko Kai, Director
of Miyako Taxi Takachiho Sales Office, said, "The number of people returning their driver's licenses will increase in the future, so the demand for taxis should increase more than now.

"Rivals" are an unusual tag team

Efforts to overcome the driver shortage have also begun.

In Takamatsu City, a "rival company" teamed up. In May last year, Hello Taxi, a taxi company located in a populous area of the city, started a "shared ride" program in which rides are dispatched together with another taxi company.

We accept calls from customers who call three taxi companies in the city, including this company, all at once.

If you can't dispatch a taxi because there is no available driver, you can dispatch a taxi from another nearby company.

This company can receive a commission fee instead of dispatching a car all at once, and the other two companies can abolish their own ride-hailing department, which will lead to cost reduction.

Daisuke Terashi, President
of Hello Taxi: "I think the reason why taxis are used even though the unit price is higher than that of trains and buses is because they are more convenient than any other vehicle, so if the waiting time becomes long due to a shortage of drivers, we will not be able to take advantage of the attractiveness.

19-year-old driver

Some taxi companies are trying to find a way for drivers under the age of 2, who have newly been able to obtain a Class 20 license due to the revision of the law.

At Miki Taxi in Miki Town, Kagawa Prefecture, the first 6-year-old driver in Shikoku was born in June.

Until now, the condition for obtaining a Type 2 driver's license required to become a taxi driver was "21 years old or older and at least three years after obtaining an ordinary license, etc.," but the government relaxed this last year amid the shortage of drivers.

On the condition that you take special training, if you have obtained an ordinary driver's license for more than one year, you can obtain a type 3 license from the age of 1.

Kyosuke Omori, 19, started working as a driver for this company.

When you arrive at work, we will check your reservations for the day and do your homework so that you can pick up and drop off in the shortest possible time. In addition, we keep a map of our patrons' homes in advance to ensure that they are welcomed as quickly as possible.

On that day, a woman who rode a taxi driven by Mr. Omori was satisfied, saying, "He is a kind, kind, and nice person, and I thought that young drivers would be nice because they can listen to various stories about young people."

Mr. Kyosuke Omori:
"I've gotten used to driving a little, and if there is anything I don't understand from other drivers, I actively ask them and they teach me politely, which is very helpful."

The number of drivers at this company has decreased by about 15% from about 4 years ago, but when a person in his 19s learned that 40-year-old Mr. Omori is working well, he has received new applications saying that he wants to work as a driver, and he is on the way to recovery.

Kenji Tomita, President of Miki Taxi: "He has a very kind personality,
so he is liked by the elderly and is even nominated. Some young people may like to drive, so we want to create a system that allows them to be employed as professional drivers."

Expert "Hands on 'Mobility Gap' Before Widening"

Kazuhiko Makimura, director of the National Institute of Metrology and Planning, who is an expert on transportation policy, said, "Railways and buses have begun to be reduced or abolished due to deteriorating profitability and a shortage of drivers. If this trend continues, there is a great concern that the 'disparity in mobility' will widen, and the disparity between those who can use cars and those who do not will widen further."

Furthermore, comprehensive discussions are necessary ahead of the "2024 problem," in which regulations on overtime work for drivers will be tightened from April 4 and there are concerns that labor shortages will become more serious.

Kazuhiko Makimura, Executive
Director of the Institute of Metrology and Planning: "There are positive aspects of shortening working hours and enabling healthy operation management, but the shortage of drivers will accelerate further, so there is no need to wait. We need a system that supports taxis as 'public transportation.'"

How to overcome the shortage of workers?

Although the circumstances of cities, tourist spots, and mountainous areas are different, it has become clear from our interviews that it is not easy to solve the shortage of taxi drivers.

In some regional cities, where other forms of public transportation such as trains and buses are scarce, taxis are the "last bastion." Due to population decline, it is predicted that the number of drivers and other social leaders will continue to decrease.

I would like to continue to cover how to secure "mobility", which is indispensable for daily life.

News Post

Please provide us with information about the "taxi shortage"

Kyoto Broadcasting Station reporter
Sakurai joined the station
in 2012 after working at the Utsunomiya Bureau, Economic Department, News Production Department, etc.

Takamatsu Broadcasting Station Reporter
Miho Tomioka joined the bureau in 2019After
being in charge of the police, judiciary, Kagawa prefectural government, and elections, she is currently in charge of the
military and economics.

Miyazaki Broadcasting Station Reporter
SuzukiEntered the station
in 2022Mainly in charge of police and justice. Actively covering economic topics

Economic Affairs Department reporter
Oe joined the bureau
in 2009 after being in charge of finance and automobiles, and then became a Yujun cap

Economic Affairs DepartmentReporter
KawaharaIn charge of
the 2023 Bureau Tour. Vigorously covering prices and town development