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Borderlands: Why does innovation stop at the Mexico border?

While investment firms and companies have invested billions in logistics startups in recent years, the complexity of cross-border trade leaves room for a lot of innovation, says Forager CEO Matt Silver. Pictured is the border crossing in Laredo, Texas. (Photo: CBP)

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Why does innovation stop at the Mexico border?; Arkansas trucking operation expands into Texas; Samsara releases fuel efficiency report; and VW begins exporting Taos from Mexico.

Why does innovation stop at the Mexico border?

While working at Coyote Logistics, Matt Silver said one of the most important things he learned about United States-Mexico trade was that there wasn’t a transportation management system (TMS) that could handle cross-border freight.

“It was like fitting a square peg in a round hole,” said Silver, who is the co-founder and CEO of FreightTech firm Forager. 

Silver began working about 10 years ago at Coyote Logistics, the brokerage his father, Jeff Silver, founded in 2006 and sold to UPS in 2015. Silver said he learned a lot working at Coyote, where he helped build out the Mexico department.

“I learned a lot about the unique headaches and challenges faced by North American shippers,” Silver said. “It’s the reason I started Forager, to address some of those challenges with new and innovative technology.”

Forager is a Chicago-based cross-border logistics technology platform founded in 2018. Forager launched SCOUT, the company’s cross-border booking and pricing platform, in October 2019 to address the gap in technology. 

“We built the TMS, SCOUT, to manage cross-border freight and put a marketplace on top of it,” Silver said.

Mexico was the United States’ second-largest goods trading partner, with $538.1 billion in total (two-way) commodities traded during 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. China was No. 1 at $558.1 billion and Canada was third at $525.8 billion.

More than 6.3 million commercial trucks crossed the U.S.-Mexico border during 2020, including almost 3 million through the border crossing in Laredo, Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Outbound tender volume in Laredo, Texas, (OTVI.LRD) climbed slightly week-over-week and increased moderately year-over-year.(Chart: FreightWaves SONAR. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

Silver said one of the challenges for cross-border shipping he noticed while at Coyote was that technology innovation often stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Since 2015, venture capital firms have invested around $28 billion in logistics startups, according to a report by McKinsey & Co. 

Silver said that venture capitalists investments and corporate investments in logistics startups could be much higher, as high as $160 billion in the last three years alone.

“Most of the technology investment is happening north of the border in the U.S. All the money that’s been invested in Convoy and Loadsmart, Transfix, even Uber Freight, there’s just a lot of people chasing after the domestic market and very little investment has gone into the cross-border market,” Silver said. “There’s not been as much investment for cross-border yet because not a lot of people understand it.”

Silver said the confusion and complexity of cross-border Mexico freight lies in the number of different entities involved. 

In a domestic shipment, there is usually one carrier, a pickup point and a final destination. A standard U.S.-Mexico cross-border shipment involves a pickup facility, Mexican carrier, border transfer carrier, Mexican customs broker, U.S. customs agent, U.S. carrier and final destination facility.

“All the different parties across different countries, different systems, makes it really hard to organize your own thoughts around anything, let alone organize all the information in the shipment,” Silver said. “We’re over here focused on the complexities of cross-border freight as kind of the clear leader in this space at this point from a tech perspective.”

Forager recently launched a cross-border load board for carriers to access loads between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. 

When Forager’s load board launched in mid-February, it had over 400 active carriers interact in their marketplace during the first quarter. It currently has about 2,900 carriers that are registered or certified in the system.

“The carriers have not had a load board to go to find freight for cross-border, they didn’t have anywhere to kind of self-serve,” Silver said. “This helps carriers who are bidding on freight. They’re booking loads themselves. It’s making their business more efficient. They’re also getting control. They have the ability to pick whatever loads they want or don’t want.”

Arkansas trucking operation expands into Texas

Transportation firm Woodfield Inc. is setting up a regional operations center and dispatch office at the TexAmericas Center in Texarkana, Texas.

Woodfield, based in Camden, Arkansas, will lease a 1,500-square-foot space for its offices and 10 spaces for its trailer trucks across a total of three acres.

Woodfield’s facility at the TexAmericas Center will be the location of the company’s regional hauling division and its over-the-road fleet management office.

Woodfield offers long-haul dry van shipping and heavy/specialized services to regional and over-the-road flatbed trucking. The company serves the Midwest, East Coast and southern United States.

Samsara releases fuel efficiency benchmarks report

Samsara has released the Fuel Efficiency Benchmarks Report, which the company says will help fleet operators understand their vehicles’ efficiency through fuel spending/consumption metrics.

“The Fuel Efficiency Benchmarks Report … reflects Samsara’s commitment to increasing the safety, efficiency and sustainability of the operations that power the global economy. This report helps fleets evaluate how their vehicles are performing across key efficiency metrics so they can set informed goals that drive both environmental as well as financial gains,” Karine Gidali, senior product marketing manager at Samsara, wrote in a blog

The company said the Fuel Efficiency Benchmarks Report can help fleets:

— Set and track fuel efficiency goals by comparing vehicle fuel usage to anonymized benchmark data aggregated from Samsara’s base of over 20,000 customers.

—Reduce fuel costs by understanding the average miles per gallon for each vehicle’s make, model and year to identify which are running inefficiently and should be replaced.

— Access anonymized insights from thousands of vehicles.

Samsara customers can access the Fuel Efficiency Benchmarks Report in their Samsara dashboard using the “fuel and energy” icon by clicking “benchmarks.” 

San Francisco-based Samsara is a cloud-based fleet management and connectivity solutions provider.

VW begins exporting Mexican-made Taos to US

Volkswagen de Mexico began shipping the first units of the new Taos crossover vehicle from its plant in Puebla, Mexico, to the United States on April 16.

The vehicles are moving through Mexico’s Port of Lázaro Cárdenas on the Pacific Coast to different northbound destinations, according to the company.

“With the departure of the first units of the new Taos to the U.S. market, Volkswagen de Mexico completes one more goal in time —  despite the challenges in their manufacturing due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Susanne Lehmann, VW’s director of production for the North American region, said in a statement.

The Taos is expected to go on sale in the U.S. in June. VW de México also exports the Jetta and Tiguan vehicles to the U.S. through Lázaro Cárdenas.

Borderlands is sponsored by Forager. More information on Forager’s offerings can be found at:

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]