Since 2020, the U.S. has experienced extreme congestion at its ports, with vessels waiting for weeks, and sometimes months, to get unloaded. After two years of continued supply chain disruptions, companies are looking for more localized options to negate the impact of overseas shipment delays.
Mexico’s proximity to the Americas and favorable operating environment has made it an attractive location for many U.S. companies wanting to expand or move their manufacturing operations. Cross-border deliveries can be made within just a few days, a vast improvement compared to overseas shipments.
With this shift, companies are also in need of qualified logistics services and skilled truck drivers to support their shipping needs to and from Mexico.
For more than 25 years, PGT Trucking has strategically positioned a terminal location in Laredo, Texas, just under three miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, supporting their customers’ northbound and southbound shipping needs.
PGT’s Laredo operation provides door-to-door service from the U.S. into Mexico and vice versa, meaning it does not transfer customers’ material from one trailer to another when crossing the border, known as transloading.
The risks of transloading include increased costs and delays, cargo damage or theft and exposure to potential injury or damage during loading and unloading.
“The flatbed trailer loaded at the place of origin is the same trailer making the delivery,” said Sergio Villarreal, Manager of USA/Mexico Operations at PGT Trucking. “By eliminating transloading at the border, PGT minimizes the risks associated with shipment transfers.”
In 2020, U.S. exports to Mexico totaled $212.7 billion while imports from Mexico totaled $325.4 billion. Mexico currently ranks as the U.S.’s largest goods trading partner with the top commodity sectors being machinery and mechanical appliances, chemicals, plastics, leather products and minerals.
Mexico’s manufacturing industry has grown exponentially since 2009, with imports increasing by 102.6% and exports by 99.1%. Because of this rapid growth, transportation companies, like PGT, must be prepared to respond to their customers’ growing international needs. PGT recently announced its expansion of operations in Laredo. The company has purchased land to build a state-of-the-art facility that will include a full-service operations center, modern driver amenities and a truck maintenance shop, providing a regional base for over 70 local drivers, including those holding B-1 visas.
A B-1 driver is a foreign national truck driver with a work visa (B-1) that allows him or her to service international freight. These individuals are unable to service domestic freight, so every delivery must include a border crossing. Sixty percent of PGT’s drivers in Laredo hold B-1 visas, and these drivers are crucial to the company’s international success.
“Other companies may not utilize B-1 drivers due to language barriers or cultural differences, but PGT is well equipped to take advantage of this unique driver pool and combat the driver shortage,” said Villarreal.
PGT’s Laredo terminal has ties to driving schools in Mexico, helping to scout for potential B-1 drivers. And because of the company’s bilingual capabilities, PGT is able to fully train a B-1 driver at any of its facilities.
“In Laredo, we get a lot of face time with our drivers, something we never take for granted,” Villarreal said. “Our drivers bring loads to our terminal for securement and mechanical inspections before making a delivery. We use these opportunities to build a relationship with our drivers, creating a family feel that’s important in the Hispanic community.”
According to Pew Research Center, the Hispanic population is the second-largest racial or ethnic group in the U.S. and is expected to rise by 9% over the next few decades, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“I believe Hispanics will be the majority of truckers in the future,” he said. “At PGT, 20% of our corporate support employees are Hispanic and 18% of our driver base is Hispanic.”
As the U.S. celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, Villarreal believes now is a great time for the trucking industry to build habits acknowledging and appreciating the growing Hispanic population.
“With manufacturing shifting to the south, it only makes sense to nurture these cross-border partnerships and retain Hispanic drivers. Recognizing their culture and understanding who they are goes a long way,” Villarreal added. “Everyone has so much to offer, and together, we can be successful in providing a much needed service to local communities and keep the economy running efficiently.”
PGT has found success by taking a multicultural approach to welcome drivers from all backgrounds. The company maintains a bilingual staff, communicating with drivers in their preferred language and posting all company messages in English and Spanish. PGT also embraces ethnic differences, allowing drivers to take pride in their heritage without feeling a need to conform.
“The more you can relate to your driver, the longer he/she will stay with you,” Villarreal said. “The industry needs to start understanding and accommodating cultural needs and see the world from their perspective. Speaking their language goes a long way to understanding them — even if it’s just ‘Sí’ or ‘Gracias.’”
By retaining B-1 drivers, PGT has been able to successfully provide international transportation services to its customers in the U.S. and Mexico for over 25 years. As customer needs shift to handle international business opportunities, carriers should be prepared to make adjustments as well. With PGT’s expansion in Laredo, the company is positioned to become the international carrier of choice by setting the standard in service, safety, and driver recruitment and retention, according to Villarreal.
“This expansion will solidify our commitment to our customers that have international shipping needs and will set us apart from other carriers. We’ve seen many carriers bail out of the Mexican flatbed industry. PGT is doing the opposite,” Villarreal said. “Along with our open-door policy and modern amenities, our state-of-the-art terminal will make any driver proud to be part of our family.”