Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Driver shortage affecting cross-border trucking; auto parts maker opens plant in Mexico; Laredo International Airport partners with UPS; and UPS hiring 450 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Driver shortage affecting cross-border trucking

For Dylcia Ramos, a driver manager and recruiter for Magico Logistics, finding truck drivers is a never-ending process.

The cross-border trucking company has around 25 trucks. The company is based in Del Rio, Texas, along the United States-Mexico border.

“I have had trouble more on the U.S. side than on the Mexican side,” Ramos said. “When recruiting on the border, one of the issues that we encounter the most is that drivers who tend to leave their driving career go to work for oil rigs.”

Ramos has been recruiting drivers for Magico for around six years.

“The first three years it was a piece of cake. It was easy to recruit,” Ramos said. “Now, it comes in waves because it also depends a lot on the oil rigs; that’s been my biggest competitor. When the rigs are up and going, it’s rare that I come across a good candidate.”  

The struggle with driver shortages has been around in the trucking industry for decades. In 2018, a study by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said the U.S. was short 60,000 drivers. The ATA said if the trend continues, the shortage could swell to more than 160,000 drivers by 2028.

Trucking companies in Mexico are also having a hard time recruiting drivers, according to the National Chamber of Freight Transport (CANACAR).

Mexico’s commercial transportation sector employs more than 2.1 million people and contributes more than $2 billion to the country’s economy, according to Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation.

CANACAR said the trucking industry is short around 50,000 drivers throughout the country, and in Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas, there are around 2,000 vacancies.

In Mexico, CANACAR said the driver shortage can be attributed to:

— A lack of good training for drivers.

— A bad image of the profession.

— Difficult working conditions.

— Difficulty attracting young people and women to the profession.

In recent years, CANACAR has partnered with the Mexican government to operate trucking academies in the Mexican cities of Mexicali, Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Mineral de la Reforma, Tula, Cuautitlán and San Luis Potosí.

The aim of the academies is to boost the availability of qualified truck drivers.

The U.S.-Mexico driver shortage impacts rates and capacity because with fewer drivers, there’s often less capacity for cross-border freight, said Roy Austin, business development manager for The ILS Co.  

The ILS Co., based in Tucson, Arizona, is a 3PL serving the U.S. and Mexico. 

“I was just talking about the driver crunch with a friend and it’s the classic salary dilemma — drivers want to consider either higher salary versus time off. You can’t have them both as a driver,” Austin said. “A friend of mine is a driver manager at Western Flyer Express and they offer the highest rating possible in terms of what you want as a driver, and they can’t keep them.”

Ramos said Magico has positions for over-the-road drivers, as well as regional and local positions. She said it is also looking for tandem drivers, who have been harder to recruit.

“I mainly recruit through social media here in Del Rio, spotlighting our company and what we offer,” Ramos said. 

“We are a smaller company, so the pay is different than larger companies. I try to guarantee them — I’ll guarantee you this amount of miles per week. That kind of helps the drivers have a little bit of a routine with their career. They’ll think, ‘Hey, I’ll have time to be with my family. That’s what works for me.’ I do try my best to keep my word. It’s worked so far.”

Japanese auto parts maker opens $11.6M plant in Mexico

Toyoda Gosei Co. has opened a vehicle airbag manufacturing facility in Monterrey, Mexico, according to a release.

The $11.6 million facility began operations on March 31, with 101 employees in a 150,695-square-foot facility. 

Officially known as the TAPEX Monterrey Plant, the facility will help meet the growing demand for vehicle airbags in North America, the company said.

“Toyoda Gosei is focusing its efforts on increasing sales to Japanese automakers and other customers,” the company said in a statement.

According to Toyoda Gosei, the company’s airbags are mainly produced in Mexico and Vietnam to increase cost competitiveness. With the opening of the Monterrey plant, the company will increase annual airbag production by over 8 million units.

Kiyosu, Japan-based Toyoda Gosei also has a major manufacturing facility along the Texas border in Matamoros, Mexico. The Matamoros plant employs 4,155 people and makes vehicle airbags and steering wheels. 

Laredo International Airport partners with UPS to ship air cargo

The Laredo (Texas) International Airport recently announced a new pilot program partnership with UPS that aims to increase efficiencies in air cargo operations.

The program aims to save shippers time and money while maintaining security by utilizing UPS’ existing supply chain within the U.S. to ship cargo from Laredo to Guadalajara International Airport in Mexico.

As part of the program, merchandise will be pre-cleared in Laredo to be shipped to Mexico as a domestic shipment. Cost savings could be accomplished by utilizing a consolidated shipper and its existing flight route structures in the U.S., which could lower costs for customers, according to a release from the city of Laredo.

“This efficient and secure pre-clearance pilot will support businesses and economic prosperity on both sides of the border, helping communities to bounce back faster from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Maria Luisa Boyce, vice president for UPS global public affairs, said in a statement. 

UPS hiring 450 in Dallas-Fort Worth area

UPS (NYSE: UPS) wants to fill over 450 positions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a surge in e-commerce/online shopping continues, the company said in a release.

UPS said the positions are part-time, permanent jobs at sortation hubs and centers and could  lead to careers. 

“The rapid and ongoing growth of e-commerce coupled with overall demand for our services is creating new part-time opportunities,” Milton Bennett, UPS director of human resources for Texas, said in a statement.

Hourly starting pay is up to $16.50 depending on location, shift and position, and includes annual raises.

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