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Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Concern over poor sleep among drivers

With the aim of preventing major acci­dents involving buses and trucks, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in June revised regulations requiring companies to confirm their drivers’ sleep situation prior to their going on duty. Should sleep be judged insufficient, drivers would not be allowed to work. The measure follows a number of accidents involving drivers who fell asleep at the wheel. However, as the confirmation method would be left to the discretion of the operator, questions have arisen as to whether the system would be effective.

Up to now, regulations required ope­rators at vehicle depots to determine whether a driver was sick, fatigued, or under the influence of alcohol, and to remove them from the shift if unfit to drive. In addition, drivers were obliged to inform their employer should they view themselves unfit to work.

Under the revised rules, “insufficient sleep” has been added to the criteria. The responsible manager must confirm a driver’s condition verbally and/or visually, and those who fail to do so will be subject to penalties that include suspension of business operations. Drivers who have not slept sufficiently must still inform their employer.

According to a survey of 7,000 bus drivers conducted by MLIT between March and May 2017, one driver out of four said they slept fewer than five hours a night.

In March 2016, a truck driver on the Sanyo Expressway in Hiroshima Prefecture crashed into a line of vehicles, resulting in two deaths. And, in August 2017, two people were killed when a truck collided with a microbus on the Tokushima Expressway in Shikoku.

Some have questioned how the new regulations can be effectively implemented. MLIT responded, “We want the operators to be diligent in confirming their drivers’ conditions.” But operators have different methods of confirmation, and when a driver takes the wheel despite a lack of sleep, they might claim things such as, “I couldn’t take the time off because no substitute was available.” This raises the question of whether employers are able to make the appropriate decision to pull a tired driver off their shift.

Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
Preparing the public for 4K/8K broadcasting

In less than six months, broadcasting of ultra-high-definition 4K and 8K television content will begin, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is concerned that the public is not ready. Some worry about a repeat of what happened with the switch to digital broadcasting in 2011, when areas with poor reception were forced to endure a considerable wait. Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda has urged manufacturers to warn consumers that their 4K TVs might not be able to receive broadcasts.

The Association for Promotion of Advanced Broadcasting Services (A-PAB) held a ceremony on June 1 to announce preparations for the new 4K/8K satellite broadcasts. Speaking before representatives of the networks, TV manufacturers, and other parties, Noda said: “Reception of the new 4K/8K satellite broadcasts will not be possible with the 4K TV units that are currently on sale. A special tuner will be required and, in some cases, the antenna will need to be changed. To avoid confusion, efforts should be made to keep the public well informed.”

Manufacturers are rolling out more 4K/8K products as they look ahead to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but are facing a chicken-and-egg situation: it’s difficult to sell products for viewing such content before broad­casting begins.

According to a February 2018 survey by A-PAB, just 13 percent of consumers understand that, in addition to the 4K TVs currently on sale, a separate receiver is necessary to receive 4K broadcasts. This is up from 4.5 percent in a similar nationwide survey of 5,000 adults con­ducted in September 2016.

Noda has called for 50 percent of house­holds to be equipped for receiving 4K programming by 2020. NHK plans to broadcast the Olympics in 4K and 8K.

keizaikai magazine