Commercial truck trade with Mexico has slowed after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s increased border security measures aimed at stopping large numbers of migrants crossing into the state illegally were implemented Wednesday, officials said.
Northbound commercial trucks arriving into the U.S. from Mexico have been slowed at two key Texas border crossings: the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge and the Colombia-Solidarity Bridge in Laredo.
Both Pharr and Laredo/Colombia-Solidarity have seen long lines for trucks because of checkpoints set up by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) right outside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stations.
“The long lines at the Texas DPS Inspection stations were not allowing for commercial cargo vehicles to exit the two [CBP] commercial cargo facilities,” Armando Taboada, assistant director of CBP field operations at the Laredo Field Office, said in an email to the trade community.
“CBP officers at the Port of Hidalgo/Pharr and Laredo-Colombia continue to process commercial shipments, but will be impacted by the Texas DPS inspections stations that are preventing commercial traffic to efficiently exit the commercial cargo facilities.”
Abbott directed the DPS on Wednesday to immediately begin enhanced inspections of commercial vehicles crossing into the state from Mexico. Abbott said the goal is to stop large groups of migrants from using commercial vehicles to illegally enter the state.
On Friday, the DPS added checkpoints to the ports of entry in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas.
At the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, 2,516 commercial trucks crossed on Thursday, a 35% decline compared to the same day last week before Abbott’s measures were announced, according to CBP data.
Commercial truck traffic at Laredo’s Colombia-Solidarity Bridge was 2,233 on Thursday, an 11% decline compared to last Thursday.
The port of entry in Laredo has two international crossings for commercial trucks — the World Trade Bridge and the Colombia-Solidarity Bridge. Texas DPS has only set up checkpoints for Colombia-Solidarity to date.
CBP already inspects commercial and passenger vehicles crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, including enforcing customs, immigration, and agricultural laws and regulations at commercial ports of entry.
U.S. Border Patrol also has checkpoints just north of both Laredo and Pharr whose primary functions are to enforce immigration laws and prevent illegal migrant entries into the country.
Ernesto Gaytán Jr., general manager of Laredo-based Super Transport International (STI), said the Texas DPS checkpoints added by Abbott are “duplicative inspections.”
“We have CBP and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration inspections at Laredo already, plus Border Patrol at mile marker 30 [on Interstate 35],” Gaytán told FreightWaves.
Gaytán, who is also the chairman of the Texas Trucking Association (TXTA), said the increased DPS inspections could affect drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations.
Travis Considine, a spokesperson for Texas DPS, did not respond to specific questions from FreightWaves.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety is committed to enforcing compliance with safety standards and one of our primary functions is to ensure Texas roadways are safe for all Texans and visitors to our great state,” Considine said in an email to FreightWaves. “For security reasons, the department does not discuss operational specifics.”
TXTA and other state officials are scheduled to meet with Abbott on Monday regarding the enhanced inspections.
Gaytán said it’s uncommon for migrants to use commercial trucks to get across the U.S.-Mexico border. Migrants are more likely to use commercial vehicles once they are across the border and hiding at truck stops or hotels where coyotes (human smugglers) approach them.
“You don’t see illegal immigrants using commercial trucks for that; that happens after they swim or are taken across the [Rio Grande] river,” Gaytán said. “The Border Patrol checkpoint on mile marker 30 catches most of those illegals.”
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