US-Mexico border delays impact carriers' regional distribution activities

While border crossing rules and regulations between the United States and Mexico have long been points of contention for lawmakers, new research from Bloomberg shows the average wait for commercial vehicles is just over an hour and much longer at peak travel times. As U.S.-Mexico trade experiences a surge in growth, traffic congestion at border crossings is causing more transit delays. These extended wait times make truck scheduling less predictable. Longer border wait times can also offset the many operational and efficiency gains that fleets have realized with recent investments in technologies like route optimization software.

US-Mexico trade growing rapidly
Trade between the U.S. and Mexico has blossomed in recent years. Many companies have moved manufacturing facilities to Mexico rather than outsourcing to Asia, thanks to the country's low labor costs and relatively close proximity to American markets, which cuts down on transportation time and expenses.

According to Bloomberg, more than 5.1 million trucks passed over the border at the six largest commercial checkpoints in 2012, a significant increase from the 2.9 million seen in 1995. This number is only expected to grow, with analysts predicting 7.3 million commercial vehicles will pass through these major ports of entry by 2020.

Border delays cause concern for many businesses
American politicians are focused on securing the border and curbing illegal immigration, along with slowing drug smuggling from Mexico. As a result, they have cracked down on border security, which may have had unintended consequences for businesses and the vehicles that carry goods between the U.S. and Mexico.

As they try to cope with increased security, drivers are finding it takes longer for them to carry cargo across the border. The Houston Chronicle revealed waits can take more than five hours during peak crossing times. Bloomberg estimated these delays cost the American economy $7.8 billion in 2011 alone, and these costs could skyrocket to nearly $15 billion per year by 2020 if trade increases as much as anticipated.

With hold-ups at certain entry points lasting several hours, transportation companies look to make the remaining in-country portion of freight transit as efficient as possible. The likelihood of extended border delays must be accommodated in logistics planning and efficiencies pursued in the domestic legs of freight routes. Once operating within the US, fleets can make use of tools such as route optimization software to improve their asset utilization, productivity and fuel consumption.