Borderlands: Cross-border trucking officials discuss freight markets; Mexico’s auto industry attracts $3.9 billion in foreign investment

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Mexican trucking officials discuss cross-border goals; CBP finds $590,000 of meth in shipment of stone items; Mexican automotive industry’s 2019 foreign investment: $3.9 billion; Helion targets car and heavy-duty truck dealers around Dallas.

Mexican trucking officials discuss cross-border goals for 2020

Raul Monroy, president of Transportes Monroy Schiavon (TMS), said he sees a lot of cross-border opportunities with the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal.

“For Mexico, the U.S. is our main export destination: It represents 80% of our exports,” Monroy said in an interview with FreightWaves. “I think USMCA will give us more opportunities in the future to get more business door-to-door to the U.S., expanding operations into the U.S.”

TMS is a family-owned trucking company founded in 1979 near México City. TMS has a fleet of around 1,050 trucks, of which 75-80% are Volvo trucks equipped with clean-burning diesel engines, Monroy said.

The company operates across Mexico and has a cross-border operation via a facility in Nuevo Laredo, just across the U.S.-Mexico border from Laredo, Texas. Some of its customers include Walmart, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Grupo Modelo and Su Carne.

Monroy said one of TMS’s goals for 2020 is expanding operations and finding new clients in Texas.

“We have opportunities going north into Texas, exploring B1 visas that we can add to our services because we have a large database of operators, not drivers. And that could be a career to some of them, to be a B1 visa driver for TMS in the U.S.”

In October, TMS created a partnership with freight technology firm Fr8Hub, in an effort to boost cross-border shipping.

Laredo-based Fr8Hub is a digital freight marketplace that directly matches cross-border shippers throughout Mexico and the U.S. (to and from border cities) with available carriers and drivers.

“TMS is one of the best carrier groups in Mexico and not just from service standpoint, but also technology and operations,” Ohad Axelrod, co-founder and CEO of Fr8Hub, said. “With our partnership, TMS has been exploring more options in the U.S. This is something that we are trying to do together and find more direct opportunities in the U.S. and Texas.

Monroy said the first two months of February have been challenging, with Mexico’s economy teetering on the brink of a recession. The freight situation has also been worsened by the coronavirus, which has disrupted supply chains around the world, he said.

“The first two months of the year have been very irregular from the past,” Monroy said. “The Mexican economy has been not growing for the last year, and the effect could be even more if the coronavirus is expanding in Mexico. Mexico might not be prepared for the effects of the coronavirus.”

Health officials in Mexico have reported 35 cases of coronavirus infection.

“If the coronavirus keeps expanding in Mexico, the economy will be impacted significantly,” Monroy said.

Axelrod said although the freight market has been up and down lately, trade opportunities will continue because cargo has to be transported.

“I’m amazed every time that I go to Monterrey, Mexico, or Mexico City – I see more warehousing, more manufacturing facilities being built,” Axelrod said. “I definitely see this continuing.”

Mexican carriers that embrace technology and visibility will benefit from USMCA, Monroy said.

“2020 will be the technology year for us. We have to take another step and evolve to technology platforms like Fr8Hub,” Monroy said. “It will be a great value for our domestic customers and opportunities for expanding into Texas.”

CBP finds $590,000 of meth in shipment of stone items

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working along the United States-Mexico border Tuesday discovered 311 pounds of methamphetamine hidden inside a shipment of stone items.

The seizure occurred around 7 p.m. at the Otay Mesa port of entry in Southern California. A tractor-trailer arrived at the cargo port with a shipment manifested as stone items. CBP officers referred the shipment to the dock for a more intensive examination.

CBP officers utilized a detector dog to screen the tractor-trailer, and the canine alerted the officers to the shipment. Officers broke open one of the stone items, discovering a crystal-like substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine.

CBP officers removed 136 wrapped packages of methamphetamine concealed inside the items. The meth had a street value of more than $590,000.

“Drug trafficking organizations attempt to elude CBP inspections by finding unique ways to conceal their drugs,” Joseph Misenhelter, the officer in charge in Otay Mesa, said in a release. “CBP’s layered enforcement has proven to be an effective strategy.”

The driver was arrested and transported to the Metropolitan Correctional Center. CBP seized both the methamphetamine and the tractor-trailer.

Mexican automotive industry’s 2019 foreign investment: $3.9 billion

The production of cars, passenger trucks and heavy-duty trucks has become a dominant player in Mexico’s economy.

Mexico received $3.9 billion in direct foreign investment for car and truck production during 2019, an 18% year-on-year increase, according to recent statistics from the Mexican Automobile Industry Association (AMIA).

The manufacture of cars and trucks was the industry receiving the most foreign investment last year, surpassing banking ($3.6 billion) and the production of auto parts ($3 billion).

Some of the biggest car and truck plants to open in Mexico last year include the $1.3 billion BMW plant in San Luis Potosí and the $700 million Toyota plant in Guanajuato. Nissan also spent $278 million adding new vehicle production lines to its existing plant in Aguascalientes.

In January 2019, Daimler Trucks North America began production of the Class 8 Cascadia tractor truck at its plants in the cities of Saltillo and Santiago.

Tech company targeting car and heavy-duty truck dealers expands in Dallas

Helion Technologies, which provides IT services to more than 700 auto dealerships around the country, announced it is expanding its Dallas operations.

Officials at the company said they have moved into a newly renovated facility in Garland, a suburb of Dallas. Helion currently employs a staff of 35 technicians in a 3,000-square-foot office. 

The new, two-floor, Helion-owned facility is 22,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 150 staff members.

“Due to the unprecedented growth we’ve experienced in the past few years, we’ve decided to invest in a new facility,” said Erik Nachbahr, founder and president of Helion in a release. “The Dallas location allows us to better service our West Coast customers with expanded technical support hours and a faster on-site response team.”

Helion provides end-to-end IT services to more than 28,000 end users in automotive and heavy-duty trucking dealerships. The company’s headquarters is in Timonium, Maryland.