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Borderlands: CBP checkpoint affecting border wait times; Protestors shut down Houston Ship Channel

Wait times for commercial trucks at El Paso’s international port of entry peaked on July 31 at 5.2 hours. Image: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Border checkpoint affecting truck wait times; Protestors shut down Houston Ship Channel; Trailer Bridge moves into Mexico market; Texas trucking company indicted for drug smuggling.

Customs inspections, construction projects affecting border wait times in El Paso

Commercial trucks are waiting up to two hours to cross from Ciudad Juarez into El Paso, due to exhaustive inspections from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Andrés Morales Arreola, director of operations of the International Bridges Trust, said that starting in the morning, waiting times for tractor-trailers can last up to two hours on the Zaragoza International Bridge, according to El

In Ciudad Juarez, commercial trucks have been getting backed up in lines as long as 2.5 miles since the beginning of September.

Arreola said the longer lines are the result of CBP agents taking longer to check commercial trucks as they pass between El Paso and Juarez.

Wait times for commercial trucks at El Paso’s port of entry peaked on July 31 at 5.2 hours, according to FreightWaves Wait Time Index, which measures the average amount of time a truck spends parked at a facility in minutes excluding drop trailers.

Wait time in El Paso, Texas. (SONAR: WAIT.ELP)

By the end of August, wait times for commercial trucks passing from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso had declined 10.3 percent to 4.7 hours.

The delays originated in April when U.S. Customs and Border Protection reassigned dozens of officers to deal with thousands of migrants that began arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Around the end of August, CBP closed El Paso’s Paso del Norte Bridge due to reports of large number of migrants gathering at the foot of the international crossing, on the Mexican side. Weeks earlier, CBP had also closed the same bridge after some migrants threatened to force their way into the U.S.

Meanwhile, on the American side of the border in El Paso, a massive construction project on Interstate 10 could slow down commercial trade.

The Texas Department of Transportation has closed the exit ramps on Interstate 10 from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez for nine months for repairs. Those ramps lead to another busy international crossing, the Bridge of the Americas.

“This is going to create problems for the people who return to Juarez in the afternoon. This will force people off the Bridge of the Americas, which is free, and into El Paso’s (southbound) pay bridges,” said Juan Acereto, a representative for Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada in El Paso in an interview with

Acereto also said he is concerned about bottlenecks on the U.S. side and an added expense for Mexicans who drive back and forth to work in El Paso.

Commercial trucks are also prohibited from using many city streets adjacent to the detour route. 

The $96 million I-10 Connect Project is intended to provide better access to the Bridge of the Americas from Interstate 10, officials said. It will build new ramps and remove the existing ramps to Ciudad Juárez and I-10 West.

Climate protesters close Houston Ship Channel for several hours

The Houston Ship Channel was temporarily shut down after 11 Greenpeace activists dangled off a bridge over the sea way on Sept. 12.

The demonstration came just hours before the third Democratic 2020 presidential primary debate at Texas Southern University in Houston.

Greenpeace USA, a non-governmental environmental organization, said in a tweet, “We’re in the heart of the fossil fuel industry (the largest oil export channel in the US) to confront Trump & the oil industry.”

“We challenge every candidate on stage tonight to promise to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable if they become president,” the group tweeted, adding the hashtag “PeopleVsOil.”

Greenpeace USA climbers formed a blockade to disrupt the Houston Ship Channel on Sept. 12. Courtesy photo

A video shared by Greenpeace showed 11 protesters using colorful banners to dangle themselves from the Fred Hartman Bridge over the ship channel. At the same time, another 11 or more members of Greenpeace created a blockade on the bridge in to block vehicle traffic.

Law enforcement officials said the Houston Ship Channel was temporarily closed down because the protesters threatened to lower themselves to stop ship traffic.

Twenty-three members of Greenpeace were arrested and are now facing federal charges, including obstructing critical infrastructure, a felony, and criminal trespass and obstructing a highway, a misdemeanor. 

“Rather than peacefully protesting, these defendants are charged with a crime that put lives at risk,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick at a press conference.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, each faces up to a year in federal prison and a possible $2,500 fine.

Trailer Bridge rolls out new supply chain solutions between the United States and Mexico

Trailer Bridge recently announced the launch of its newest service, offering supply chain solutions between the United States and Mexico. 

With the addition of Mexico cross-border service, officials said the new service aims to streamline the process of shipping to and from Mexico.

 “For shippers, importing and exporting between the U.S. and Mexico presents a unique set of challenges, from security to regulatory to capacity, the list of potential hurdles is long,” Mitch Luciano, chief executive of Trailer Bridge. “We have great relationships with our partners in Mexico and adding dedicated resources and market expertise to support this offering will drive even greater value for all.”

Luciano said Trailer Bridge’s team includes a secure carrier network with dedicated cross-dock and transfer facilities, and local and bi-lingual agents to manage northbound and southbound truckloads, as well as specialized cargo and time sensitive freight. 

Jacksonville-based Trailer Bridge was founded in 1991. The company is a shipping and logistics firm providing services in ocean, truckload, intermodal, expedited, specialized cargo, vehicles, over-dimensional, warehousing, and transloading services. 

Trailer Bridge has offices in Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Chicago, Atlanta, Harrisburg, Houston, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

South Texas man arrested for using trucking company to transport cocaine 

Napoleon Posadas, the owner of a trucking company near Brownsville, Texas, was arrested on a drug smuggling charge after he was found with more than 115 kilograms of cocaine in his tractor trailer, court records show.

Posadas is alleged to have used his trucking company to smuggle a large quantity of cocaine from the Rio Grande Valley to destinations up north, according to the Brownsville Herald.

Authorities allege that Posadas was using his trucking company, Sierra Carriers, formed in October 2015, to transport kilos of cocaine, and that Posadas made the trips personally.

On Aug. 15, federal agents received a tip that a refrigerated tractor-trailer registered to Posadas potentially had a hidden compartment built into it.

On Sept. 1, Posadas was traveling north from McAllen and was pulled over by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper in Victoria, according to police reports. Posadas was driving a Sienna Carriers’ tractor trailer, which was pulling the aforementioned reefer trailer.

“The sole occupant and driver of the tractor trailer, (Posadas) granted consent to search the truck and trailer. During the search of the vehicle, officers discovered 100 bricks, weighing approximately 117.4 kilograms of suspected cocaine, concealed within an aftermarket concealed compartment within the reefer unit of the trailer,” the complaint stated.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]