October 2, 2023

US, Mexican trade officials ask Texas governor to end truck inspections


Trade officials on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border want Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to end state-run cargo truck inspections that are creating wait times of over five hours in El Paso and Eagle Pass.

Trade across the U.S.-Mexican border has slowed over the past two weeks as U.S. authorities have shifted customs personnel to immigration duty and shut down some crossing lanes at ports of entry amid an increase in migrants.

Border officials said while the migrant influx has had an impact on operations, state-run inspections overseen by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) are causing major disruption to commercial trade flows.

“The DPS inspection is slowing down the commercial traffic flow,” Homero Balderas, general manager for the city of Eagle Pass International Bridge System, told FreightWaves. “We have gone from 850 trucks a day to roughly under 400 due to the inspection delay. It’s hurting the Eagle Pass Bridge System drastically and more importantly the supply chain.”

Balderas said due to the migrant surge in the area and the shifting of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel, the bridge system has been forced to close Bridge I, which is the port of entry’s passenger vehicle bridge. With the closure of Bridge I, all vehicles — both passenger and commercial cargo trucks — must use Bridge 2, also known as the Camino Real Bridge.

“It creates congestion that impacts our commercial traffic heading to Mexico,” Balderas said. “Overall it’s a bad situation; we need something to change soon. In two weeks, we have seen a drop of 30,000 [passenger] vehicles and 4,000 cargo trucks.”

The Texas DPS inspections started Sept. 20 at the Ysleta-Zaragoza International Bridge in El Paso and the Camino Real Bridge in Eagle Pass. The inspections are aimed at stopping cartels from smuggling drugs across the border, DPS officials said.

The checkpoints launched by the DPS are in addition to commercial truck inspections conducted by CBP.

On Monday, the Camino Real Bridge in Eagle Pass had wait times of over four hours.

Cargo truck wait times at the Ysleta-Zaragoza bridge on Monday were over six hours in the general commercial lanes and four and a half hours for vehicles permitted for the Free and Secure Trade program lanes.

CBP closed El Paso’s Bridge of the Americas on Sept. 18 and moved all cross-border cargo truck inspections to the nearby Ysleta-Zaragoza International Bridge.

Trade officials in Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, said the DPS inspections have caused major supply chain disruptions between the two cities.

“The problem is no longer customs. It is Gov. Abbott who is choking the maquiladora,” Thor Salayandia, president of the Juarez Chamber of Industry and Manufacturing, told the EFE [news] Agency. “He is taking political advantage of the immigration issue. … He has the agents doing some checks where he is no longer looking for migrants. It is very unfortunate that only one person, Abbott, is the one who is causing all this damage to both the Juarez economy and the corporations that own the maquiladoras.”

Juarez is home to more than 300 maquiladoras, producing mainly automotive parts, as well as products ranging from electronics and aeronautical supplies to medical devices. Maquiladoras are foreign-owned factories that import parts from abroad and build products made strictly for export. 

Many of the maquiladoras in Juarez depend on supply chains through the El Paso port of entry for manufacturing.

Last week, Canada-based power sport vehicle manufacturing firm Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) temporarily suspended operations at its three plants in Juarez because of supply chain issues.

“Due to the waiting times on the international bridges in Ciudad Juarez, we have had a significant reduction in the volume of units that we can export daily,” BRP said in a statement to the media. “This is why we have made the decision to suspend production in our three plants for two days to allow our exports to stabilize and relieve the capacity of our warehouses.”

Manuel Sotelo, vice president of the Juarez chapter of Mexico’s National Chamber of Freight Transport (Canacar), said the slowdowns caused by the DPS inspections have resulted in more than $1.5 billion in goods stranded at the border.

“No one is coordinating operations to solve or stop the problem. The governor of Texas is affecting the economy of both countries with between 10,000 and 11,000 stranded loads,” Sotelo told the EFE Agency. “If we multiply that by $135,000 per load, we are talking about $1.5 billion, which is not a loss, but goods that have not been able to cross.”

Officials for the Texas DPS and Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FreightWaves.

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The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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