Truckers asked not to abuse free tolls in disaster areas


TOKYO (majirox news) — Truck drivers taking advantage of free expressway tolls in the Tohoku disaster area by doing U-turns and heading off along other roads were asked July 26 by Transport Minister Akihiro Ohata to cease the practice.

Security cameras have caught trucks using the Tohoku Expressway on which tolls have been waived in the wake of the March 11 disasters to speed recovery efforts in the region, but then heading off to areas not affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

“This was a plan put in place to help the recovery of the disaster area, so we don’t want it abused,” Ohata said at a news conference following a July 26 Cabinet meeting.

Trucks have been confirmed traveling along the toll free Tohoku Expressway, then doing U-turns and driving off in directions away from the disaster zone. In addition to avoiding payment, their routes are now encroaching on school zones and putting children at risk of being involved in accidents, the minister said.

The Japan Trucking Association has already asked prefectural trucking associations nationwide to stop their members engaging in the practice.

“Doing this sort of thing is going to create a nuisance for businesses trying to help in the recovery of the disaster area. If there’s an accident, the government might stop making the tolls free,” the association said in a statement sent out to its prefectural associations, asking for cooperation.

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