Mexican truckers block border, protesting Texas Gov. Abbott’s new rules

Mexican truck drivers, irked by new border regulations imposed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), have blocked two major border crossings in and out of Mexico.

First affected was the Pharr International Bridge leading to and from Reynosa, Mexico. Mexican truckers blocked access to the bridge on Monday to protest increased truck inspections imposed by Abbott.

Then, in an apparent response to long wait times at the commercial truck lanes at the Ysleta Port of Entry, truck drivers blocked access to the lanes on the Mexican side of the border.

Drivers were reportedly parking their trucks in the inspection area in the northbound lanes—in Juarez, Mexico—with their trailers blocking the southbound lanes as well. That effectively blocked all commercial traffic.

Pedestrian and personal vehicle traffic were not affected by this protest, which began Monday when Mexican truck drivers were complaining about long waiting times at the border. Some of the delays were nine hours, or longer.

Similar delays were reported last Friday. That was the start of enhanced commercial inspections by the Texas Department of Public Safety. DPS has inspection facilities immediately north of U.S. Customs and Border Protection port facilities.

“There’s a lot of traffic because they are blocking the street, you have the labor union and truck drivers impeding traffic,” Sergio Lopez, a truck driver who was able to cross from Juarez to El Paso after hours of waiting, told Border Report, an online news site covering border issues.

“They don’t tell us anything because they ask us to get out,” Lopez added. “It’s very slow here. We don’t even know what’s going on—they don’t let us know.”

The Pharr International Bridge leading to and from Reynosa, Mexico, normally opens at 6 a.m. but did not open at all Monday. It is the number one bridge for imports of produce in the nation. Officials warn its closure will have a ripple effect on the supply of fruits and vegetables in this country.

The city of Pharr, Texas issued a statement Monday afternoon, saying that the Pharr International Bridge was “ready and open for business.” However, Pharr police officers remained at the foot of the bridge blocking all southbound traffic late Monday. No commercial traffic was making its way north.

“We are aware of the situation in Mexico that is currently preventing the flow of commerce into the United States. We will continue to closely monitor these unfolding events and work with the proper authorities as necessary,” the statement read.

Because of the protests, Pharr is processing only about one-tenth of the usual 3,000 heavy trucks that cross its border per day.

The protests came days after the Biden administration announced that it was revoking Title 42 on May 23. That’s the public health law put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020 that prevented asylum-seekers from crossing onto U.S. soil in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Texas Gov. Abbott fears the border in his state will “get crushed” with immigrants after Title 42 rollback. Abbott said after Title 42 is disbanded, he fears an estimated 18,000 undocumented migrants per day will try to cross the Southwest border. That’s more than 500,000 per month, he said.

To get ahead of this potential surge, Abbott said he would spend Texas taxpayer funds “to do what the Biden administration has failed to do.”

“With the Biden administration ending Title 42 in May, Texas will be taking its own unprecedented actions this month to do what no state in America has ever done in the history of this country to better secure our state, and our nation,” Abbott said.

But Texas State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen, calls the “intensive inspections” of trucks intrusive.

“The truckers from Mexico are upset because they don’t have food. They don’t have bathrooms to use. They’re running out of fuel and some of the produce is rotting. So they are pretty upset,” Hinojosa told Border Report.

Hinojosa recently sent a letter to Abbott urging he reconsider the mandatory inspections the Texas governor announced April 5.

According to the Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development, in 2021 nearly $442 billion in truck trade flowed through Texas ports of entry. About two-thirds of all produce imported by the U.S. comes over the Pharr International Bridge, the No. 1 border crossing for Mexican produce.

These unintended consequences are devastating to the supply chain in Texas and throughout the United States.

U.S. trucking experts unaffiliated with the Texas protests say it’s another example of how complicated cross-border freight movements can be.

“Cross-border logistics doesn’t always have to primarily occur along or even near the borders,” Ed Habe, vice president of Mexico sales for Averitt Express, Cookeville, Tenn., the nation’s 11th-largest LTL carrier, told LM. “Shippers can often take advantage of inland warehouses for consolidation and distribution needs on shipments moving to or from Canada and Mexico.”

Habe said it “can be a misconception that customs clearance must occur at the actual border. In fact, there are options to clear customs within the interior of each country before the freight moves across the border.”

Averitt, for example, offers a cross-border LTL service that allows shippers to move freight from Canada to Mexico and vice versa without having to slow down at the border for the traditional customs clearance process.

“Instead, we enable shippers to move their freight in-bond from the origin and then move direct to the destination city where the final customs clearance can take place. This allows their freight to bypass the customs process along the border where congestion can often cause delays,” Habe added.

Still, if trucks are delayed for upwards of 12 hours at the border—or the bridge across the border is closed—delays are sometimes impossible to avoid.

About the Author

John D. Schulz

John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. John is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis.

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