In June 2016, a leading group of Laredo carrier companies decided to band together and launch a new association focused on promoting and furthering Laredo as the “trucking capital” of the United States. From their efforts, the Laredo Motor Carriers Association (LMCA) was formed.
LMCA recently celebrated its three-year anniversary by adding its 200th member. Today, the association aims to educate, advocate and be a “voice” for carriers and anyone working in the trucking industry in Laredo.
“It started with a group of about five or six company owners; they got together and talked about creating a stronger and unified voice,” said Melissa Huddleston, executive director of LMCA. “They were all carrier owners sharing the same concerns, issues and situations.”
Huddleston said it was U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) who actually met with the carrier owners and suggested forming the group.
“Around three years ago, Cuellar met our founders for lunch and said, ‘Why don’t you all gather your voices together and start an association – being that Laredo is the largest land port in the nation, there is so much movement and trade coming and going out of here, you guys need to unify your voice,’” Huddleston said.
The Port of Laredo is the largest inland port along the U.S.-Mexico border and ranks second in the nation with $234.66 billion in imports and exports in 2018, according to data from the U.S. Census. Around 16,000 trucks pass through Port Laredo on a daily basis.
In March, Port Laredo briefly became the leading trade port in the United States, surpassing Los Angeles as the nation’s busiest trade hub, including airports, seaports and international border crossings. Port of Los Angeles, which regained the number one ranking in April, has been affected by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
The original founders of the LMCA consisted of the owners of local companies like Super Transport International, HP Carriers, GRT Transportation, Royal Express and TUM Logistics. Today, LMCA has 16 board members. Huddleston and her assistant are the only full-time employees.
The original founders of LMCA are mostly owners of mid-size carriers, companies with around 200 to 350 trucks, Huddleston said. Each of them have operations in Mexico and the United States.
The current president of LMCA is Ernesto Gaytan Jr., general manager of Laredo-based Super Transport International. The vice president of LMCA is Gerardo Maldonado, the Mexico and U.S. operations manager for Warren Transport.
“Our membership consists of about 110 carriers and 90 allied members; we try to keep it a little more on the carrier side,” said Huddleston, who began working with LMCA shortly after its founding.
“We provide a little bit of everything – training, educational courses – we have great relationships with our local U.S. Customs and Border Protection office and with the Texas Department of Transportation,” Huddleston said. “We offer different courses on everything from safety and inspections, to fleet maintenance, to news and updates on everything happening in the industry.”
The biggest news coming out of the border region recently was President Trump calling off the proposed tariffs against Mexico on June 7. Other national issues affecting the Laredo area are migrants, a border wall, and the shifting of CBP officers around the border.
Wait times at port entries along the U.S.-Mexico border soared in April, as President Trump diverted CBP officers to handle an influx of migrants, leaving trucks backed up for hours at Port Laredo and other checkpoints.
“A lot has been getting thrown at Laredo – with tariffs, the influx of migrants coming through, the President’s border wall, then the border shutdown – it has been one thing after another after another,” Huddleston said. “Then there is the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is the biggest deal of all.”
Huddleston said on a local level, issues affecting Laredo’s trucking industry are driver shortages and infrastructure needs. For the future, the goal is to double LMCA’s size by 2020.
“We want to focus on LMCA’s membership and provide services that support our carriers’ needs,” Huddleston said, “such as how to continue growing their businesses – taking a five-truck company and taking it to 50 trucks, to 100 trucks. There are more than 650 trucking companies in Laredo; there are trucking companies growing out of the woodwork [in Laredo] everyday.”