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Borderlands: CFI expands cross-border services; $2.7M in marijuana found in toilet shipment

CFI is expanding its cross-border solutions, as well as rebranding its Mexico operations under the single banner of CFI Mexico. (Photo: CBP)

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: CFI expands cross-border services; Prent Corp. picks New Mexico for expansion; $2.7 million worth of marijuana found in toilet shipment; Texas DPS opens new truck inspection facility.  

CFI celebrates 35 years in Mexico by expanding cross-border service

CFI recently celebrated 35 years of service in Mexico by laying out growth plans.

The Joplin, Missouri-based truckload carrier is expanding its cross-border solutions between the United States and Mexico, as well as rebranding its Mexico operations under the single banner of CFI Mexico.

“We just felt like it was a good opportunity to invest in Mexico. It’s an opportunity for CFI to build out its footprint in North America,” CFI President Greg Orr said in an interview with FreightWaves.

As part of the expansions, CFI is opening its first freight consolidation and distribution (C&D) center in Chicago, with plans to launch another C&D service through Laredo, Texas. CFI will also add its seventh Mexican border cross-dock facility in Nogales, Arizona.

Orr said the new facility in Chicago will help shippers streamline cross-border less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments originating in the Midwest into truckload moves destined for Nogales, and the Nogales-Sonoran Mexican Gateway. 

“With our partnership with an LTL provider up in the Chicagoland area, we’ve created this C&D opportunity, where a lot of our truckload shippers over the years have learned and realized that we have this other offering that is south of the border and can run in and out of Mexico with the U.S. truckload assets,” Orr said. “We feel that this provides them probably as good if not better service offering than what they’re currently getting today.”

Shippers can also consolidate LTL shipments originating in Mexico, move them via truckload under CFI line-haul services into the U.S., and then deconsolidate in Chicago and cross-dock them for LTL delivery across the Midwest.

Orr said the idea for the new C&D facility came from talking with customers who needed more options.

“We’ve talked with shippers that might have a quarter or a third of the load to fill a truckload trailer, but because of the market, they’re forced to buy a full trailer,” Orr said. “We feel like the C&D operation provides a really good option for them, even though it’s being picked up and delivered by an LTL partner, then put on our trucks and run to wherever the break point is in Mexico, out of our seven locations.” 

In 2019, CFI had around 62,000 cross-border shipments with Mexico with an additional 27,000 LTL shipments within Mexico.

Nogales represents CFI’s seventh C&D cross-dock operation with Mexico, joining Guadalajara, Monterrey, Mexico City, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro and Nuevo Laredo. At these sites, LTL shipments within Mexico are consolidated and routed into the U.S. for delivery.

“If you think about probably a 100- to 150-mile radius of Nogales, it covers part of Southern California, the tip of New Mexico, obviously Arizona, and ultimately, we felt like it was an area that was based on customer requests,” Orr said. 

CFI also rebranded its Mexico operations under the single banner of CFI Mexico, consolidating two existing divisions, CFI Logistica and CFI Mexico Truckload, for “a more unified customer experience,” Orr said.

CFI was founded in 1951 as Contract Freighters Inc. The company employs 2,350 drivers and works with 375 owner-operators. The company is a truckload unit of Montreal-based TFI International.

Wisconsin manufacturer picks New Mexico for expansion

Prent Corp. is building a $12.5 million factory in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, creating 85 jobs, according to a release from the Borderplex Alliance.

The manufacturer said it was attracted to southern New Mexico because of its proximity to Mexico and Texas.

“The Borderplex region makes perfect sense for Prent. It’s an area ripe for innovation and partnership,” Mark Rothlisberger, senior vice president of manufacturing for Prent, said in a release. “Over and over, we heard that the strength of the region is its collaboration across borders.”

Prent’s factory in Santa Teresa will be 62,500 square feet. Construction is scheduled to start by the end of the year, with operations expected to begin in the fall of 2021. 

The new factory will be near the Santa Teresa port of entry, which saw $31 billion in cross-border traffic with Mexico during 2019.

“Santa Teresa with its efficient international border crossing and the Union Pacific Intermodal facility will boost Prent as it expands its markets and helps the state create better paying manufacturing jobs,” said Alicia J. Keyes, New Mexico’s Economic Development Cabinet secretary.

Prent, founded in 1951, manufactures custom plastic, rigid thermoform packaging for the medical, electronics and consumer industries.

The new facility will be Prent’s 11th factory worldwide. The company also has factories in Tijuana, Mexico, and Flagstaff, Arizona, as well as facilities in Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, China, Malaysia, Europe and Singapore. 

Texas DPS opens new state-of-the-art truck inspection facility 

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) recently opened the new Seguin Inspection Facility in Guadalupe County.

The facility is on Interstate 10 between San Antonio and Houston and features $1 million in state-of-the-art technology aimed at expediting inspections, officials said.

“This one-of-a-kind facility will benefit the trucking industry throughout the state of Texas and beyond,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a release.

Officials built a four-lane-wide awning for trucks to pull under, allowing trucks that pass the initial screening to continue on their way while trucks with potential violations are pulled over for additional safety checks.

Features include a weigh-in-motion sensor and an over-height detector, as well as hazardous materials placard and carrier identification sensors. The sensors are connected to a computer database that identifies credentialing, violation history and if the vehicle is under a federal out-of-service order. 

A thermal imaging array examines a truck’s wheels and brakes for abnormalities, such as defective brakes.

The new station also features a pit for DPS troopers and inspectors to more easily inspect brakes, linings and other items from underneath the truck. A 90-foot platform scale — the only one like it in the state — allows inspection officials to weigh an entire truck at once.

Nearly $3 million in marijuana found in toilet shipment

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers (CBP) in Laredo recently found more than 6.5 tons of alleged marijuana hidden inside a shipment of toilets from Mexico.

The incident occured Oct. 2 at Laredo’s World Trade Bridge. CBP officers in the cargo facility were checking a tractor-trailer from Mexico manifesting a load of toilets.

CBP found $2.75 million worth of drugs in a shipment of toilets. (Photo: CBP)

Officers found 1,017 packages containing 13,744 pounds of alleged marijuana hidden within the shipment. The narcotics have an estimated street value of $2.75 million.

CBP seized the narcotics, and the case was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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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]