By Katsuhro Asagiri
TOKYO (IDN) – Nowadays they are trucking hazardous cargo. They carry fine chemicals and ethanols, imported by trading companies, to client factories in Tokyo and surrounding five prefectures, known as the Kanto area. But there is a long and exciting human story behind today’s Gosho Transportation Company.
The short of the long story is that before Yoshio Emori founded Gosho in 1969, its predecessor Emori Oil Co. Ltd was running 27 gas stations in Saitama and Tokyo. The story that son Azuma Emori — who now presides over Gosho — tells, manifests the resilience with which the Japanese citizens helped build up post-war ‘Nihon’. JAPANESE
The end of the Second World War was only six months away, when in February 1945 father Yoshio –the eldest son in a family that had run a traditional Japanese restaurant in Saitama prefecture (north of Tokyo) since the 12th century — was drafted by the Japanese army and shipped to Korea.
From there he got on a train supposedly bound for ‘Manchukuo’, a puppet state of Imperial Japan. But after crossing the Korea-China border, the train moved southwards — instead of northwards where Manchukuo was located — and eventually reached Guangzhou in Southern China.
Yoshio had engaged in three battles, when — after the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — Japan surrendered. He was taken a prisoner by the Eighth Route Army, the larger of the two major Chinese communist forces that formed a unit of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China, which fought the Japanese from 1937 to 1945.
Son Azuma recalls what his father told him returning home after two years in Chinese captivity: While a prisoner in China, father Yoshio would carefully listen to Japanese army officers. One day he heard one of the officers telling others: “You know petroleum is the key to modern times . . . Japan has lost the war in a sense because of the paucity of petroleum.”
Returning to Japan — devastated by bombings during WWII and suffering from acute shortages of food — father Yoshio was convinced of the need to start up a new business that would take into account the needs of the new times. He decided to go into gas station business instead of rebuilding the family restaurant. And so the Emori Oil Co.Ltd was born.
Some four years before the 1973 oil crisis started, father Yoshio came round to the view that the petroleum industry did not offer a promising future. He, therefore, decided to break up the lorry tank division from the Emori Oil, setting up the Emori Transportation Company in 1969, renamed to Gosho Trasportation Company eight years later.
As the oil crisis dawned, the gas station business was wound up.
Son Azuma recalls: “Those days there was a rumor that world’s oil reserves would be dried up in the next 20-30 years. So when I graduated from Takushoku University (a private university in Tokyo) my father had closed gas stations one after the other. The lorry tankers were still on the move but no longer transporting petroleum of his own company.”
Fortunately, there was a major petro tank station nearby at that time, so father Yoshio could transport their petroleum. “I had a sense of crisis and thought that I would have to start dealing with something that is linked to a key industry of Japan so that I would be able to make this transportation business more stable,” Azuma Emori tells IDN.
That led him to the conviction that the future of the company would have to rely on fine chemicals and ethanol. So he started re-structuring the company’s administration. “But in those days, it was not yet time for transporting fine chemicals. Tanks on our lorries, then made of steel, would be damaged — and rubber seals would melt if you put fine chemicals in those tanks. So I gradually replaced them with new lorries with stainless steel tanks to meet demands of times.”
Azuma Emori goes on: “I was young and reckless so I jumped around to meet with many people and talked about my ideas. I was lucky enough to be gifted with many senior friends including senior alumni of Takushoku University (currently he serves as a member of the university’s Board of Trustees) who gave me good advice and opportunities.”
He joined his father’s company but he was not ordered by his father to do so.”In fact, I suspect that he was even thinking of closing transportation business and concentrating on trading division. If he would have ordered me to work for this transportation company, I might have chosen to work in another field. Anyway, I thought that it does not matter if it goes bankrupt so I could do daring things to meet the demands of the time as I saw appropriate. The spirit of that time was a lucky factor, too.”
Having nurtured trusted relations with major two trading companies (ITOCHU Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation), son Azuma Emori is now exclusively dealing for Kanto Region in cargo related to fine chemicals and ethanol — substances linked to key industries in Japan now.
“Besides cultivating business relationships, you have to keep upgrading your quality standard to meet the demands of cargo owner companies and stay on board,” says Gosho president. “I consulted with our partner companies if we should obtain ISO (International Organization for Standardization) status when it was introduced to Japan, but they did not particularly require or recommend pointing out that ISO status involves a lot of money. They said that there are other ways of proving safety standards in Japan.”
Therefore, Gosho was relatively early among those dealing with hazardous substances to obtain the prestigious G-mark. “As it turned out, if you do not have a G-mark nowadays, you have almost no access to transportation facilities owned by trading companies,” says Azuma Emori. “Cargo owner companies are extremely strict about the safety and the required levels of quality are also very high.”
Gosho first obtained the G-mark, administered by the Japan Trucking Association, in 2005, valid for two years — and has retained it since.
Safety for driving staff is also important. To ensure quality and safety, Gosho has taken to Driving Recorders (DR). The system introduced by Gosho records all aspects of driving such as accelerations, velocity, angular velocity, global position, avoidance maneuvers of the driver. Its CCD (charge-coupled device) camera automatically records at the time of accidents. It is also programmed to evaluate overall performance of a driver.
Explains Azuma Emori: “There is nothing special about our serious efforts for the prevention of accidents, but we attach the most importance to ‘securing the safety of transportation’. As we deal mainly with hazardous liquids, quality standards required by cargo owner companies are very high. If we spill even one drop of hazardous liquid at a cargo owner’s factory compound, we will have to submit a written explanation as penalty.” He continues: “Having been accustomed to such strict level of safety and quality control demand, we hardly had any accident even before we introduced DRs.”
Nevertheless, several reasons prompted Gosho, already very rigorous about maintaining and improving safety standards, to introduce DRs.
“Large trailers such as ours tend to be perceived by the public as scary, simply because of their sheer size. I presume that there can be cases in a court where a plaintiff may claim that an accident was caused because a big trailer came too close the his/her car due to his/her visual illusion etc.”
But DR helps in avoiding unnecessary disputes because it maintains a record of the situation before and when accident takes place. “Green numbered trucks (registered as commercial trucks) which are destined to drive far longer than ordinary vehicles are naturally more likely to get involved in an accident caused by others.”
Because Gosho deals mainly with hazardous liquids and carries cargos with mostly large trailers, the driving staff is made up of professionals who have obtained various licenses such as those for dealing with hazardous and toxic substances and driving towing vehicles, among others. Our safety measures are without a loophole as these are based on transportation safety management,” says Azuma Emori.
Nevertheless, while introducing DRs, the company had to take into account several factors.
“A most important point in this regard was to install DRs in all vehicles at once,” says Manabu Emori, Azuma’s son and executive director of the company, who is in charge of dealing with practical business of the company including safety management issues.
“Although financial subsidy was available only for vehicles registered in Tokyo — and not for vehicles we own outside of Tokyo — we decided to install DRs in all of our vehicles at the same time based on a spirit of fairness to staff derivers.
At the beginning, both drivers and management were so to say groping in the dark with some aspects of the device. But both sides proposed points of improvements and now DRs are fully integrated in daily operations.
“What I found most difficult in dealing with DRs was ‘idling’, that is, running the engine while not driving. When unloading liquid cargo, drivers have to use a pump attached to the vehicle. Therefore they cannot stop the engine. Because of unloading activities, DR reports lower points. With this in view, through trial and error, we learned to readjust sensors in DR in such a way that our business associated characteristics such as idling during unloading are now taken into consideration,” explains Manabu Emori.
Since the company deals mainly with hazardous substances, it has been engaged in various volunteer activities for the Tokyo Fire Department (TFD) for raising awareness of fire safety as well as local police department for raising awareness of traffic safety.
Emori senior has served as a board member for Safety Association for Hazardous substances under TFD for many years. The association is made up of transportation companies dealing with hazardous substances, gas stations, and relevant factories. They conduct safety training for employees and cooperate with TFD on public relations activities with the aim of raising awareness about fire safety. Gosho Transportation Company has been actively participating in such public relation activities on 14th of every month, the day of fire safety. In recognition of his long years of contribution, TFD awarded Azuma Emori Fire Service Cooperation Award(Fire Chief’s Award).
“While my father is vice chairperson of the traffic safety association of Joto district, I engage in similar activities organizing traffic safety schools for children, distributing traffic safety brochures, and standing at traffic junctions with a flag for pedestrians. We also cooperate with local fire station by driving their information car on every 14th of a month,” says Emori junior.
Five years ago, Azuma Emori, nearly 60 now, acted on the idea he had cherished for a long time, and stopped showing up at the company. He left it to his son to represent the company at business and public occasions.
“I do not know what my son is thinking but he has to cultivate trusted relationship with business partners through his own efforts and this is not something you can have him inherit from me. Time is always changing and there is a possibility that the times of fine chemicals may become outdated. You never know. So he needs to develop his own good judgment to strategize what he should do to make the company respond to the demands of time.” (IDN-InDepthNews/14.07.2010)