Cross-Border Mexico Freight: Rail Disruptions and Port Reopenings

Ongoing disruptions at US-Mexico rail crossings lead logistics firms to seek alternative transport routes, including trucks and maritime solutions.

Cross-Border Mexico Freight: Rail Disruptions and Port Reopenings
Union Pacific International Railroad Bridge. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Manuel Velez

Recent months have seen significant disruptions at US-Mexico rail crossings, causing issues for cargo owners and logistics providers, particularly as nearshoring factory operations to Mexico have increased.

Major disruptions included the closure of rail crossings at Eagle Pass and Laredo, Texas, on December 18 by US Customs & Border Protection (CBP), affecting 24 trains per day normally managed by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa.

This led logistics firms, including CH Robinson, to seek alternative routes through trucks, air freight, and other border points.

Migrant Surge

With the end of the Covid-era U.S. Title 42 policy, migrant arrival surged at the U.S.-Mexico border, often traveling by cargo train. Image Source: Twitter.

The situation escalated with a surge of migrants in November, prompting CBP to redirect personnel for immigration processing and leading to the closure of several ports. This included Eagle Pass Bridge No. 1, affecting passenger vehicle traffic and causing significant delays for commercial cargo.

In response, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) initiated safety inspections for all cargo trucks arriving from Mexico in Eagle Pass and Del Rio starting November 28. Despite the reopening of ports like Eagle Pass, Lukeville, Nogales, and San Ysidro, DPS inspections continue, creating extended wait times and logistical challenges.

Local Impact and Perspectives:

  • Armando Taboada of CBP’s Laredo Field Office commented on the extended wait times due to DPS safety inspections.
  • Homero Balderas, the general manager for Eagle Pass International Bridge System, expressed that the continued intense inspections are negatively impacting freight movements, even after the reopening of Bridge 1.
  • Association of American Railroads: Criticized the closures, with CEO Ian Jefferies remarking on their inefficiency and lack of support for law enforcement capacity.
  • US National Feed & Grain Association and North American Export Grain Association: Issued a joint statement urging preventative measures against repeat closures.

Emerging Alternatives:

  • Maritime Solutions: Some consultants suggest using ships across the Gulf of Mexico for certain commodities.
  • Sustainability Benefits: Paul Brashier, VP at ITS Logistics, notes that combining water and rail transportation could help meet shippers’ carbon footprint targets.

Current Situation and Statistics:

  • Recent developments include the January 4th reopening of:
    • Eagle Pass, Bridge No. 1.
    • Lukeville, Arizona, port of entry.
    • Nogales, Arizona, Morley Gate border crossing.
    • San Diego, San Ysidro’s Pedestrian West border crossing.
  • As of midmorning on January 4th, cargo truck wait times at the Eagle Pass port of entry were over an hour.
  • In December, Eagle Pass processed 12,115 cargo trucks, marking a 27% decrease compared to the same month in 2022.
  • Acquisition Announcement: On 26 December, a unit of Grupo Mexico Transportes acquired stakes in two companies offering maritime transport of rail cars between the US and Mexico.

Sources: The Loadstar | FreightWaves

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