Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: new FAST lane in Laredo, Pharr Bridge sees mixed results, sales of heavy duty trucks plunge in Mexico, Doggett Industries acquires trailer business and Border Patrol talks “Operation Big Rig.”
New FAST Lane at World Trade Bridge to alleviate truck wait times
On August 5, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the completion of the World Trade Bridge’s new Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Lane.
The new $10 million paved lane is for northbound FAST empty tractor-trailers to run directly from the bridge, and will decrease wait times at cargo facilities. The FAST program allows expedited processing of trucks owned by commercial carriers that have completed background checks and fulfill certain eligibility requirements.
“The World Trade Bridge processes on average 16,000 trucks daily, carrying goods valued at more than $300 billion annually,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo). “The creation of this FAST Lane will streamline trade and promote economic growth in the region.”
Around 500 empty trailers will be processed daily and the hours of operation for FAST Lane will be Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
“These improvements serve as vital assets to not only Laredo, but the entire United States economy,” said Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz.
CBP officials estimate they process around 8,000 northbound truckloads daily at the World Trade Bridge facility.
“The ever-growing traffic volumes have far exceeded the limits of the present facilities and we will work hand in glove with our stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels to assist with improvements that will facilitate traffic at the busiest cargo facility in the southwest border,” said David P. Higgerson, director of field operations at the CBP Laredo Field Office.
There were 195,918 commercial vehicle crossings at the World Trade Bridge in June, representing a 0.7 percent increase from the same time last year, according to the latest data from the city of Laredo.
Pharr International Bridge crossings fall amid longer wait times
For the third straight month, the Pharr International Bridge near McAllen, Texas, has seen declining total vehicle crossings and extended truck wait times.
In June, 104,468 total vehicles crossed the bridge, down nearly 3,000 vehicles compared to June 2018.
Southbound truck crossings were up slightly. There were 49,613 commercial trucks that crossed the Pharr bridge southbound into Mexico in June, 668 more trucks than in June 2018.
However, the number of northbound commercial trucks coming into the U.S. from Mexico across the Pharr Bridge in June decreased by 1,952 trucks or 3.6 percent over the same period last year. There were 51,641 northbound trucks in June, compared to 53,593 the same period a year ago.
Bridge officials said commercial trucks sometimes bottleneck at Pharr-Reynosa for hours, but the wait times have dropped slightly since April.
The longer wait times have been caused by a mix of issues, including the migration crisis, President Trump’s tariff threats and the reassignment of some CPB agents, said Pharr Bridge officials.
The Pharr Bridge did manage to bring in a slight profit, $1.2 million in June, compared to just over $1.1 million in June 2018. Fees collected from commercial truck crossings accounted for $987,041 in revenue in June.
Bridge officials recently opened the northbound lanes crossing from Mexico into the United States only for commercial trucks. Passenger vehicles can now only travel northbound over the Pharr bridge from 4:00 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays.
“These pilot programs are being implemented as a result of the reduced Customs and Border Protection personnel at the port and deployed to the Southern border as mandated by the federal government,” Pharr officials said in a recent statement.
Sales of heavy duty trucks fall 50 percent in Mexico in July
In Mexico, wholesale sales of heavy and commercial vehicles fell 50.1 percent in July compared to the same month in 2018, according to new data from Mexico’s National Association of Manufacturers of Buses, Trucks and Tractors (ANPACT).
Sales for July totaled 1,671 units, compared to 3,349 trucks sold during July 2018.
“Wholesale sales during the first six months of the year responded to an effect driven by the advance in environmental technology of NOM-044, not a structural demand of the domestic market,” said Miguel Elizalde, executive president of ANPACT.
In Mexico, NOM-044 is a new requirement that limits the amount of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, non-methane and other gases that diesel engines are allowed to emit.
The new requirements were introduced by Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) for vehicles weighing more than 8,503 pounds or 4.2 tons. SEMARNAT’s requirement impacts the production of new heavy-duty trucks, in an attempt to motivate manufacturers to produce engines that produce fewer pollutants.
Elizalde said the drop in sales for July can partly be explained by higher than average sales in the preceding six months, before SEMARNAT’s new policy was registered.
Elizalde also warned that the coming months will be crucial for both the industry and the carriers, since both parties “require certainty, since a next step is planned towards cleaner commercial vehicles, which requires clean diesel throughout the country, and currently there is not enough.”
Doggett Industries acquires Great Dane trailer business in Texas
Houston-based Leslie Doggett Industries recently acquired the Great Dane trailer distributor/dealer for El Paso, Laredo and McAllen/Pharr, Texas with territory stretching to Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Doggett acquired El Paso’s Truck Enterprises on July 24. The addition of Great Dane complements Doggett’s existing Freightliner and Western Star dealerships in El Paso, Laredo and McAllen/Pharr. The dealerships will now sell and service flatbeds, dry freight and refrigerated vans with their over-the-road truck offerings.
Border Patrol talks “Operation Big Rig Program” to CDL students
U.S. Border Patrol agents presented “Operation Big Rig” to students taking part in a commercial driving license class at South Texas College in McAllen on August 6.
Operation Big Rig is a call to action to call 9-1-1 if truckers see or are aware of smuggling or suspicious activity of any kind. Border Community Liaison Unit Agents routinely speak to local trucking schools to highlight the perils and consequences of human smuggling to students in the process of beginning their trucking careers.