While the Mexican government recently appeared to be pointing a finger back at the governor of Texas for slowing trade, delays during periods of increased inspections at border crossings are a part of doing business for the state’s trucking industry.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, a multi-jurisdictional plan to address border security that deploys assets from the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety, at times causes delays for commercial trucking.
Just last week at the crossing between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas, lengthy delays were reported as DPS implemented 100% inspection of commercial trucks.
According to Mexico’s Economy Department, some commercial vehicles were delayed up to 27 hours, and the actions prompted a comment by the department that stated, “the imposition of these inspections is creating millions in losses for both Mexican and U.S. firms.”
Trucking Delays at Border Aren't New
Back in April 2022, similar enforcement spanning an eight-day period caused comparable lengthy delays. But such periods of thorough inspections are naturally a part of doing business, according to John D. Esparza, president and CEO of the Texas Trucking Association.
“We’re wonderfully geographically located for the rest of the country to be a carburetor for freight going in all different directions,” Esparza told HDT in an interview. “Approximately two-thirds of all the miles of the US-Mexico border, through four states, are in Texas. It's not a surprise that Texas is to Mexico as Mexico is to Texas — the largest trade partner that we have.”
He said there is “nothing but growth expected” in trade relations between Texas and Mexico and his state focuses heavily on the relationship and continues to facilitate trade in the spirit of the NAFTA agreement.
Esparza said many positive things have resulted, but there are also challenges with delays, safety and security, and the politics between the State of Texas and President Joe Biden’s administration.
“The reality is, there's a lot of activity on the border that has to be dealt with, that is in the environment, that freight must move through. That often causes delays at times,” he said.
Security at Border a Reality
Esparza said he understands the need to add extra security that at times causes delays. Even though the recent delays at the Brownsville-Matamoros gained a lot of attention from the media, there are also other times that officials must act on security concerns. For instance, a few months ago security was heightened at a bridge crossing in El Paso. That caused similar delays to the ones seen in Brownsville, he pointed out.
But he said often officials must act on security concerns and it may not be in the best interest of public safety to reveal specifics of potential threats or situations.
“We’re all about supporting the efforts to keep things safe at the border and to keep our drivers and freight moving at the border. That often causes delays at times. We don't like to see them any more than anybody else does because as has been proven, when we see those delays, it has a direct economic impact that resonates throughout the country, not just Texas,” Esparaza said.
Texas DPS Doing Their Job
Esparaza said he supports the efforts of Texas DPS officers, seeing them as an ally rather than an opposition to trucking and the flow of commerce.
“If we've got concerns, whether it's human trafficking, or fentanyl, or whatever it is, we need them to do their job. And we need more of them because there's more and more freight moving across these borders on a regular basis,” Esparza added.
There is an increased need for law enforcement since there are many more trucks now crossing the border. He explained that truck crossings have more than doubled and as an example detailed how in 2006 there were roughly 6,500 to 7,000 crossings a day just in Laredo. Now, he says there are nearly 18,000 daily crossings there. Currently, there are 28 border crossings, however, only 13 are designated for commercial traffic with three more planned for the future, according to Esparaza.
More Cross-Border Trucking on the Way
“We've got private development that is being negotiated as we speak with private investors on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, looking to create more lanes for commercial traffic. That’s the reality of where we sit today,” he said.
Esparza serves on the Border Trade Advisory Committee, a group created by the state legislature in 2001 to define and develop a strategy and make recommendations to the commission and the governor for addressing the highest priority border trade transportation challenges. He sees a key thing that needs improvement, but that would need to be done at the federal level.
“We are due an overhaul of our visa system. And for trucking, there's not really a good visa that's specific for the truck driver, the employee. We don't have a good fit there; there's a frustration that has been there for quite a while in the process and program that we have in place. It needs an overhaul,” Esparza said.