Trucking In The U.S. May Not Be What You Think
October 3, 2023 – Trucking in the United States may not be what you think. Small Owner-Operators and Contract Truckers are being forced out by cheap competition provided by Mexico based carriers. These same Carriers sometimes bend the laws set by the United States and create an unfair playing field.
KSST spoke with a local truck driver and his wife, who is a Freight Agent, about the state of the industry. They were able to give personal insight into this issue.
Omar began his explanation of the issues by giving an example. Suppose a Mexico based freight company wins a bid to move a shipment from Mexico to New York. They are allowed to cross the border, and continue to New York without changing driver, truck or company. Seems logical enough. That trucker is required to return to Mexico within a 10 day window. That company is allowed to fill that same truck with freight and return to Mexico loaded. If no jobs to Mexico are available, they are allowed to move freight to another US location in the direction of the border, for example Dallas. That freight is moved at the Mexico based rate, and that money goes to Mexican based companies. This allowance is intended to improve efficiency and prevent a truck returning to Mexico empty. The problem is, during those 10 days, Mexico based companies are not recalling drivers, but instead are sending them on jobs all around the United States, moving freight at a fraction of the rate US based carriers can charge. Omar feels that often those drivers overstay their allowed 10 days, and work for months in the United States before returning to Mexico.
To maximize profits, Mexican Freight companies also employ two person driving teams that keep the trucks running almost constantly.
There is a also a huge difference in the cost of doing business for Mexican carriers v.s. US based firms. This can include cost of labor, repairs and parts costs.
Gabriela sees the other side of this issue when she attempts to bid on jobs. When she has to charge around $3 a mile to survive, and a Mexico based carrier can charge as little as $1.50, there is no way for her family to compete.
U.S. Inflation also cuts into their profits. The cost of diesel and meals on the road, repairs, tires.. everything is more expensive. They know several owner-operators who have sold their trucks and taken other jobs. Omar and Gabriela have also reduced their fleet of trucks in an attempt to stay afloat.
Omar has a passion for driving. He doesn’t want to consider selling his truck. He drives because he loves it, not just because it makes money.
Omar and his wife point to the laws and regulations already on the books as the first step to leveling the playing field. They feel enforcement has been very lax recently, rewarding these practices.
The demand for cheap goods, delivered as cheaply quickly as possible will continue. We all want full shelves and packages delivered quickly. Trucking makes sure all those things happen. Right now, the cost of those conveniences include hard and uncertain times for families like Omar’s.