Shippers looking for trucks in northern Mexico desperately want something in short supply across North America: la capacidad. Truckload capacity is tight for northbound loads as U.S.-Mexican trade, particularly U.S. imports, grows.
“What you hear from carriers is that there are about two to three loads northbound for every load southbound,” said Troy Ryley, director of transportation and distribution at Transplace Mexico, the cross-border arm of U.S. logistics company Transplace. “That dynamic creates a significant issue for shippers, especially as there’s going to be a real push soon in retail,” as the peak shipping season hits U.S. loading docks, creating an even greater shortage of tractor-trailers in Mexico.
To get goods to the U.S., shippers need to look at options from intermodal to rail boxcar service and even co-loading freight to better use available truck capacity, said Sonney Jones, division director of transportation at Dal-Tile in Dallas.
“We’ve had to diversify to get sustainable capacity,” said Jones, who ships flooring tile from a plant in Monterrey, Mexico, to the U.S. “That’s meant using more rail boxcars in some shorter lanes as a replacement for intermodal or truck capacity.”
Jones said truckload capacity is tight enough that Dal-Tile has been forced to reposition truck equipment in northern Mexico to ensure it has capacity when and where needed. “It’s been three to four years since we had to do that,” he said.
Tightening truck capacity in Mexico reflects a surge in trade with the U.S. since the economic recovery began three years ago, as well as “near-sourcing” of manufacturing in Mexico and a growing Mexican domestic consumer market.
The value of goods shipped by truck across the U.S.-Mexican border hit a record high in May, increasing 17.1 percent year-over-year to $29.1 billion, with the value of imports from Mexico rising 16.1 percent and U.S. exports, 18.4 percent, according to the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
U.S. truck imports by value rose 14.5 percent in the first five months of the year, while U.S. truck export shipments in dollars increased 16.9 percent.
Trucking dominates the U.S. surface transportation trade with Mexico, accounting for more than 80 percent of the $35.6 billion in imports and exports shipped across the border in May. The number of trucks crossing the border increased 2.6 percent in 2011 to nearly 4.9 million, following a 10.5 percent increase in 2010. Truck crossings last year were up 13.4 percent from 2009 and the end of the recession.
U.S. motor carriers and logistics operators are strengthening Mexican connections to tap expanding trade. UPS in April launched an expedited ground freight service linking the two countries. “We see transborder trade with Mexico increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent,” said Steve Flowers, president of UPS Global Freight Forwarding. “With fuel prices going up and labor costs increasing in China, customers are looking for other options to near-source.”
Celadon Trucking in August purchased a portion of the equipment of USA Dry Van of McAllen, Texas, a deal that will strengthen its cross-border business. About 80 percent of USA Dry Van’s freight crossed the border, and the company advertised for choferes profesionales de camiones — professional truck drivers — on YouTube.
Ryley expects Transplace’s cross-border business in Mexico to expand 30 percent this year following more than 50 percent growth in 2011. Transplace offers customs, warehousing and distribution services on both sides of the border, an increasingly important factor to its growth. “We’re an integrated provider,” Ryley said, “and all those services are growing at a quick rate.”