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Borderlands: Laredo aims to expand air cargo operations with Mexico

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Laredo pushes Mexican government for more air cargo; Cargo theft continues to rise in Mexico; Arizona-Mexico trade up 12 percent; and Texas sheriff indicted for theft against trucking company

Laredo pushing Mexican government for more air cargo

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz and other officials recently met with the Mexican government to lobby for more air cargo trade at Laredo International Airport (LRD).

Saenz, along with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), met with Ricardo Ahued Bardahuil, Mexico’s new general administrator of customs, in Mexico City on August 22.

Saenz presented a formal request for expanding operations of the Bi-National Federal Inspection Station (FIS) joint customs project at LRD.

Saenz and other officials want the Mexican government to change how they operate to allow carriers to consolidate mixed cargo from various U.S. airports, hubs in particular, to fill scheduled flights destined to Mexican airports.

At Laredo’s bi-national FIS, both U.S. and Mexican Customs have joint inspections for international air cargo in order to try for expedited and direct deliveries to cities and ports in Mexico.

 U.S. exports such as auto parts, electronics and aerospace products can be inspected at LRD for expedited entry into airports in the Mexican cities of Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Hermosillo, Queretaro, Ramos Arizpe, San Luis Potosi and Toluca.

The FIS, which opened in 2013, is part of the city of Laredo’s Airport Modernization Plan to increase both passenger and cargo traffic. 

LRD is part of four international commercial vehicle bridges and an international railway bridge that makes up Port Laredo, which handled $234.7 billion in trade in 2018. LRD currently ranks 41st in the nation for air cargo and fifth in Texas.

Mexican carriers and freight forwarders continue to lose millions to cargo theft

Mexico’s cargo transportation industry continues to face a high rate of theft, causing cargo insurance to skyrocket for carriers, according to industry leaders.

The Mexican Association of Insurance Institutions (AMIS) recently released data showing 11,768 cargo trucks were stolen in the last 12 months, according to a report in

Jesus Lopez, president of the National Confederation of Mexican Transporters (CONATRAM), said, “we have a serious problem, especially in Puebla, Guanajuato and Jalisco.”

CONATRAM is based in the Mexican port city of Altamira along the Gulf of Mexico, around 300 miles south of Brownsville, Texas.

Lopez said the freight corridor that connects the Port of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico to the city of Puebla, and arches north to the Mexican state of Guanajuato, is one of the most dangerous for truck drivers and cargo thefts.

Other industry professionals also said the roads around the Port of Veracruz were dangerous.

“The Mexico-Veracruz [road] is the most dangerous road nationwide. Nails are thrown on the road or barrels are thrown at the windshield to stop and steal the truck,” said Eduardo Guerrero, León, Mexico-based Guerrero Transport Manager.

León is the capital city of the Mexican state of Guanajuato. 

The result of the increased cargo theft has caused insurance rates to rise. CANACAR reported that the cost of premiums has risen more than 40 percent. 

It is more expensive to secure merchandise that travels from the port of Veracruz to Mexico City, than by sea from Hong Kong to Veracruz, said Leonardo Fantini, technical director and subscription quality at AIG Seguros México, in an interview with El Heraldo de México.

“We have reported more losses in a 250-mile radius of roads around Veracruz, than in the sea crossing from China, with 20 or 30 days of danger at sea, with natural phenomena such as hurricanes or merchandise falls during loading and unloading, fires in ships and collisions,” Fanitni said.

Former law officer in Texas charged with forgery against Unimex Logistics 

Investigators recently arrested Jose A. Padilla, 59, in Pharr, Texas. Padilla is a former sheriff’s office commander with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, according to the Progresso Times.

Padilla and two women were arrested on forgery and credit card abuse charges allegedly for misappropriating more than $109,000 from Pharr-based Unimex Logistics, according to Pharr Municipal Court records.

Unimex Logistics is a trucking and logistics company that supports cross-border business of multinational companies, according to Adolfo Campero, an attorney representing the company.

Padilla said “that [Unimex Logistics] owed him money and that he used the company card to make purchases to reimburse himself,” according to the criminal complaint.

Padilla, 59, had been an employee of Unimex Logistics since 2017.

“[Unimex Logistics] has clients and a sister company in Mexico, so it engages in numerous international transactions, almost on a daily basis. All of these operations are done under the guidance of accountants and lawyers,” Campero said.

Unimex officials said they contacted the Pharr Police Department in February about unauthorized spending by employees.

According to court records, investigators linked Padilla to unauthorized credit card transactions, including $151.55 at a department store in Austin and $575.52 at a grocery store in McAllen, Texas.

Padilla has been charged with 10 counts of credit card abuse – a state jail felony, and three counts of forgery – a state jail felony.

Padilla is already a convicted felon. He pled guilty to bribery and was a key witness in a corruption investigation against former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño in 2014. 

Arizona-Mexico border truck crossings up 12 percent to $5.9 billion

Truck crossings through Arizona’s border ports of entry with Mexico rose 12 percent for the first six months of the year, an increase of 7.8 percent compared to the same period last year.

Arizona’s total trade with Mexico was $5.9 billion for the first six months of the year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

From January to June, there were 5,902 commercial trucks crossing Arizona’s six border ports of entry, with the Nogales port of entry facilitating the largest number of truck crossings. The San Luis and Douglas ports of entry were a distant second and third behind Nogales.

Imports from Mexico, trucks traveling northbound into the U.S., accounted for 61 percent of freight crossings in Arizona for the first six months of 2019. Imports from Mexico were valued at $3.6 billion.

Exports, trucks traveling southbound into Mexico, were at 39 percent for the same period. The value of exports crossing the Arizona-Mexico border was $2.3 billion.

Freight trade between Arizona and Mexico was worth $16.7 billion in 2018, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Transportation equipment, agricultural products, and computer and electronic equipment were top imports/exports between Mexico and Arizona.

Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers Mexico cross-border trucking, logistics and trade for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1999. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact

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