TOKYO (AP) -- Thousands of truck drivers across Japan held demonstrations Tuesday to protest rising fuel prices and warned they would add surcharges to cover spiraling costs.
Trucks moved slowly along city streets in convoys, their vehicles adorned with banners saying they would be forced to raise prices, while hundreds of protesters marched and shouted slogans calling for tax cuts on gasoline and lower highway tolls.
Organizers from the Japan Trucking Association estimated 20,000 demonstrators participated nationwide. They said it was the first time such protests had been conducted on a national scale.
The powerful association stopped short of organizing a strike that could paralyze the country. Tuesday's protests merely slowed down some services. Japan's population is largely packed into its big cities, which depend on truck deliveries each morning to keep stores and restaurants stocked.
"As a result of rising costs, a surcharge is necessary," said group spokesman Hiroyuki Izuka. "Gas prices have more than doubled in the last five years."
Izuka said surcharges have already been adopted by some trucking companies and others may be forced to follow suit. Izuka did not say how large the surcharge might be.
The JTA is the country's largest trucking organization and has about 51,000 member firms, or 80 percent of Japan's total trucking companies, Izuka said.
The fuel-price protest was the latest in resource-poor Japan, which imports nearly all of its oil and is highly vulnerable to global price swings.
Last month, the country's fishermen went on a massive one-day strike. Organizers said it involved 200,000 boats and 400,000 workers.
The Japanese government said soon after that it would provide emergency aid to the fishing industry, earmarking 74.5 billion yen (US$693 million) for a set of aid programs to encourage fishermen to cut back on their use of fuel and reform their industry.