Freight costs still a concern at U.S.-Mexico border

US/ Mexico border delays

Wait times for trucks importing and exporting cargo across the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped considerably from April crisis levels but industry experts warn threats to the supply chain haven't been eliminated.

"I've been telling my members that maybe this is a blessing in disguise," said Bob Costello, Chief Economist and Vice President of International Trade Policy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Costello, speaking at the annual Global Supply Chain summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on May 16, was referring to the backups and delays that ensued at the southern border after President Trump in late Marchthreatened to shut it down in response to immigration issues. The problem was exacerbated when federal cargo inspectors were redeployed from cargo entry ports to help deal with the migration problem.

"[Wait] times have proved significantly, but we now have another reminder of how critical this trade is, and the modes of transportation that have to move it. Sometimes we need those reminders…that if you shut down the border for a week, you're in a recession, I can almost promise you that."

Costello emphasized the importance trade on the southern border is to American trucking and the U.S. economy: 32,000 U.S. truck drivers participate in cross-border freight moves, representing roughly $1.1 billion worth of cargo per day.

The U.S. automotive sector feels delays and border closure threats particularly hard. Shutting down a single assembly line for an hour due to a lack of parts can cost an automaker $1.3 million per day, said Kristin Dziczek, Vice President of Industry, Labor, and Economics for the Center for Automotive Research, who participated on the panel. "You can't make a car without the parts, and some very critical parts are supplied by Mexico and countries south of Mexico. We were predicting the whole [automotive] industry would be down within a week if the southern border is closed."

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