Drivers of 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, delivery trucks, freight trucks and tanker trucks hauled more than $671 billion in goods across the United States-Mexico border in 2018.
However, there are around 50,000 unfilled driver positions throughout Mexico, according to Enrique González Muñoz, president of the Mexico City-based National Chamber of Freight Transport (CANACAR).
The biggest need is in Nuevo Laredo, where there could be as many as 1,500 unfilled trucking positions for drivers to haul cross-border freight (transfer drivers) and truckers to haul freight to other parts of Mexico, Munoz said.
“There are around 400 [trucking] companies in Mexico whose destination is Nuevo Laredo, so it is very important that we create opportunities there, to create training centers for drivers,” Muñoz said in a statement. “It is very important that people know that it is a very well-paid job.”
Founded in 1989, CANACAR represents the interests of the trucking industry in Mexico and is active in promoting the transport of cargo within Mexico and across the border in the U.S.
Nuevo Laredo is a city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The city lies on the banks of the Rio Grande River, directly across from Laredo, Texas, the biggest land port in the United States.
Muñoz said part of the problem in finding drivers is that there is not enough training centers around Mexico. “There are those who want to be operators but cannot because it is a highly professional job,” he said.
In Nuevo Laredo, there are three training centers – the Training Center for Industrial Work 193, the Technological University of Nuevo Laredo and the FEMA Transportation Line.
CANACAR has been working with state and federal officials, and has agreements for seven other training centers in the state of Mexico, one in Tlaxcala, Mexicali, Baja California, Manzanillo, Colima and Guadalajara.
“It is actually a problem on both sides of the border, in Mexico and the U.S.,” said Ernesto Gaytan Jr., general manager and co-owner of Laredo-based Super Transport International. “The American Trucking Associations says we have around 50,000 openings in the U.S. for truck drivers.”
Gaytan, who is a member of several trucking associations, is the current president of the Laredo Motor Carriers Association. Last year, he attended the International Road Transport Union World Congress global event in Oman in the Middle East.
“It was interesting to talk to everyone in Oman, everyone is having the same problem, not just the U.S. or Canada,” Gaytan said. “I was talking to trucking companies from Russia, Germany and South Africa – they all seem to agree finding drivers is not just a problem in one region, it’s everywhere.”
Gaytan said one thing trucking industry professionals can do better is to let people know of the salaries that are available to truck drivers. Starting pay for U.S. truck drivers is around $50,000 a year at some companies. Earlier this year, Walmart increased the annual pay for its truck drivers to nearly $90,000 a year.
“It’s one of the few jobs someone without a degree can earn $50,000 to $55,000 starting out,” Gaytan said.
However in Mexico, truck drivers earn almost five times less than their American counterparts. Mexican truck drivers can earn the equivalent of $100 to $450 a week, depending on what type of truck they drive and which company they work for.
The Nuevo Laredo-Institute of Operators (IFEMA) recently announced a program to train people as cargo truck drivers, paying them economic support of up to 3,000 pesos ($156.52), 100 percent scholarships in training and guaranteed hiring in two months.
In the U.S., Gaytan said they need to spread the word “that truck driving is a great job. There are a lot of people who could be truck drivers, who aren’t considering it as an option.”