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Borderlands: Mexico faces growing shortage of truck drivers

Borderlands: Mexico faces growing shortage of truck drivers

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Mexico faces growing shortage of truck drivers; Mexico creates new national customs agency; CBP expands Santa Teresa port of entry cargo capacity; and DHL Express to invest $360M in Americas infrastructure.

Shortage of truck drivers growing in Mexico, experts say

A perfect storm of factors is causing a growing shortage of truck drivers across Mexico, experts say. 

The reasons include an aging population of drivers, low driver retention rates, challenging working conditions and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico.

“There is definitely a driver crunch,” Gerardo Alanis Barrios, CEO of Cold Chain Solutions in Laredo, Texas, told FreightWaves. “A lot of drivers that were over the age of 50 or 60, they got off their trucks during the pandemic because their families were worried about them.” 

Alanis Barrios and other members of his family operate a group of companies unofficially called Grupo Alanis in Laredo and just across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The companies include transportation, cold storage, drayage, customs and logistics operations.

Mexico’s health ministry on Thursday reported 12,821 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 233 more fatalities across the country, bringing its total figures to more than 2.6 million infections and 235,740 deaths since the pandemic began in early 2020.

“A lot of drivers decided just to rest or at least wait until the pandemic has played out, because these drivers are very exposed,” Alanis said. “They go to a truck stop and they have to shower with a lot of other drivers, they go to lunch in truck stops, touch the gas pumps that everybody else touches.”

The International Road Transport Union (IRU), based in Geneva, released a survey in March that said Mexico’s truck driver shortage could increase by 18% by the end of 2021.

IRU said Mexico, like many other countries, has struggled to attract younger people and women to the transportation sector.

Only 2% of truck drivers globally are women and all countries surveyed saw the percentage of female truck drivers fall. The number of truck drivers under 25 fell nearly everywhere in 2020, from already low levels down to 5% in Europe and Russia, 6% in Mexico and 7% in Turkey. 

Matt Silver, founder and CEO of Forager, said the same economic factors and global influences that have reduced the driver count in the U.S. also exist south of the border.

“As a result, we’re seeing a driver shortage in both the U.S. and Mexico. COVID-19 and the safety concerns surrounding COVID-19 cut down the number of drivers on the road and decreased driving school capacity,” Silver said.

Forager is a Chicago-based cross-border logistics technology platform. Forager’s SCOUT is a cross-border booking and pricing platform launched in October 2019. The company also recently debuted a cross-border load board for carriers to access loads between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. 

“The semiconductor chip shortage means fewer trucks are being manufactured, so there are fewer trucks on every North American road. B1 visa drivers were already rare, now they’re even rarer, resulting in capacity crunches. I can’t speak for any individual carrier’s revenue, but I can say that while prices have increased significantly across the board, it’s entirely possible that those rate increases wouldn’t be enough to completely offset the cost of overhead and having fewer drivers available to haul,” Silver said.

Spot rates for high-volume lanes from Laredo to Dallas (TSTOPVRPM.LRDDAL) and Dallas to Atlanta (TSTOPVRPM.DALATL) were trending higher week-over-week at $3.25 per mile and $2.63 per mile, respectively, as of Friday.

Spot rates for the lanes from Laredo, Texas, to Dallas (TSTOPVRPM.LRDDAL), and Dallas to Atlanta (TSTOPVRPM.DALATL) were 29% and 28% higher compared to the same period last year. Chart: FreightWaves SONAR (To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

Mexico creates new national customs agency

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Wednesday the creation of a national customs agency that will be responsible for fiscal and customs authority across all of the country’s ports of entry.

The National Customs Agency of Mexico (ANAM) will operate separately from the Tax Administration Service, which had previously been supervising customs authority for the country’s 48 U.S.–Mexico border crossings and 330 total ports of entry.

Obrador said during his daily press briefing Thursday that ANAM was created with the objective of “cleaning all customs.”

“We are going to reinforce land and maritime customs, with the support of the Ministry of Defense and with the support from the secretary of the navy. We have to fight smuggling, continue to fight smuggling, the introduction of drugs, tax evasion and clear all customs in the country,” Obrador said.

ANAM will coordinate with the Mexican military for security at customs points, organize and direct the foreign customs and inspection services, regulate the import and export of goods in Mexico, and manage the collection of taxes related to foreign trade operations.

CBP expands Santa Teresa port of entry cargo capacity

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently announced an infrastructure improvement project at the Port of Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

The project will expand the commercial entrance to facilitate the processing of more oversized cargo and improve the flow of traffic, officials said.

“The expansion of the infrastructure at the Santa Teresa port of entry is critically important to ensuring the facilitation of lawful trade and travel,” Fernando Thome, CBP’s director for the port, said in a statement

The project is a partnership under CBP’s Donations Acceptance Program between the U.S. General Services Administration and Scottsdale, Arizona-based TPI Composites Inc.

TPI Composites manufactures blades for wind turbines at a factory in Juarez, Mexico. The company ships its blades through the Port of Santa Teresa. 

“Successful completion of this project at the port of entry positions TPI Composites as a wind blade manufacturer that can effectively accomplish big projects and deliver longer wind blades,” Paulo Silva, the company’s senior vice president, said. 

DHL Express to invest $360M in Americas infrastructure

DHL Express recently announced it is investing more than $360 million to build new and expand existing facilities across North and South America. 

The global express delivery and logistics services provider said the investments will include:

  • An expanded state-of-the-art hub in Miami.
  • A 244,000-square-foot automated hub in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
  • 105 self-service kiosks across Mexico to support first- and last-mile shipment processing.
  • Upgrading hubs and gateways through automation in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, Mexico.

The projects are scheduled to be completed by 2022 and are being driven by both B2C and B2B e-commerce shipment growth, DHL Express officials said.

“With an ever-increasing number of consumers shifting their shopping activities online, and the sharp rise in businesses selling their goods in the global marketplace, we need to continue the critical investments in our network infrastructure to meet the growth demands in international e-commerce and global trade,” Mike Parra, CEO of DHL Express Americas, said in a statement.  

Borderlands is sponsored by Forager. More information on Forager’s offerings can be found at: https://www.foragerscs.com/.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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18 July 2021, 13:00