Congestion at the Border

Article by Cathy Morrow Roberson from Transport Intelligence - Published on October 2nd 2013

Much cited as the beneficiary of nearsourcing, Mexico is struggling with congestion along its border with the US. Growing NAFTA trade is exacerbating this problem. The latest data highlights this issue as US NAFTA trade with Mexico picked up in July with total value of goods traded increasing 7.9% to $43bn. 
Trucking remains the dominate mode of transport, comprising over 65% of the total value.  Because of this, the border between the two countries remains problematic for transport providers and shippers.
In fact, a recent US Government Accountability Office report concluded that long lines at border entry points could deter economic trade.  The report suggests infrastructure improvements and proper allocation of personnel are necessary to help reduce the congestion. Among its recommendations are:
  • The implementation of consistent data collection methods, such as utilizing cameras to measure how long it takes for a truck to make it through the line.
  • The US Customs and Border Patrol should asses the costs and benefits of replacing current methods and using automated technology instead.
  • The US Customs and Border Patrol should increase transparency by documenting the staff allocation process and rationale.
An interesting pilot program getting set to begin is a public-private program that could address staffing allocation. According to the Journal of Commerce, the US Customs Border and Patrol is finalizing talks with five entities to allow some US-Mexico shippers to fund additional Customs and Border Protection staffing during busy times or for extended hours as part of a pilot project. These five entities are Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the City of El Paso, South Texas Assets Consortium, Houston Airport System and Miami-Dade County, Florida.
How the pilot program will operate is unknown.  Perhaps a modal shift is needed? But then again, Mexico’s infrastructure issues maybe among the reasons why trucking is the overwhelming modal choice. One option though, maybe intermodal. Kansas City Southern Railway has built a strong network linking the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas to logistics hubs within Mexico and ultimately to locations within central US. Combined with trucking, this intermodal solution could prove beneficial for shippers and perhaps reduce time at cross-border entry points.
Upgrades and expansions within Mexico’s infrastructure are needed in order for it to effectively compete for international manufacturing. In fact, Mexico’s infrastructure issues were addressed by the new Mexican government when it was announced in July a plan to invest $300bn over the next five years in new highways, rail lines, port and regional airport upgrades and to fund a plan to relieve congestion at the Mexico City International airport.
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