Increased wait times at U.S.-Mexico border may compel modal shift to air

Last week, the United States President Donald Trump suggested the potential complete closing of the U.S.-Mexico border. This rhetoric exacerbates uncertainty among shipping companies involved in cross-border freight movements, after the issue had previously been considered largely resolved with the creation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace NAFTA. To address the new uncertainty, logistics companies, such as U.S.-based C.H. Robinson, are advising consideration of alternate modes of transportation than trucking, to mitigate disruptions to operations. 

On April 5, C.H. Robinson released an advisory notice to its clients suggesting strategies to mitigate U.S.-Mexico border delays, including use of rail or air as modes of transport for cargo. In the notice, the company detailed changes to traffic at several customs ports along the border including El Paso, Laredo, Otay Mesa/Calexico, Nogales and McAllen/Pharr. Cargo wait times have significantly increased from 50 minutes to up to seven hours at certain ports, according to the logistics provider. 

C.H. Robison said that northbound capacity at all locations is difficult to find due to trailers unable to cross and unload. Routes north are further congested by increased volumes from Mexican manufacturing facilities working to push out as many goods as possible before the start of Mexican schools’ spring break and the Holy Week holiday. 

C.H. Robinson’s director of government affairs, Jason Craig, said that there has so far not been a large number of shippers moving to air or rail, but this may change should slowdowns at border crossings continue. 

Companies such as Mexpress Transportation, which moves cargo in bond between Mexico and the U.S., may also see an increase in volumes as another alternative for shippers to move goods across the border directly to airports.   

Mexpress offers scheduled LTL departures from their drop stations in,  Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas,  (DFW) and Houston (IAH) , to and from the following Mexican airports – Guadalajara (GDL), Mexico City (MEX), Queretaro (QRO), Silao (BJX) and Monterey (MTY) airports.   Mexpress also offers full truckload service to and from smaller airports, including Toluca (TLC), Puebla (PBC), San Luis Potosi (SLP) and Chihuahua (CUU). The type of freight the company moves across the border is largely comprised of manufacturing parts to include  electronics and automotive.

It is unknown whether the border will actually close, but Air Cargo World will keep track of the situation as it unfolds, so check back soon for further updates. 

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