The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was supposed to open the borders between the US and Mexico to allow trucks to deliver goods to markets across the continent by 1995. In practice, this agreement has not yet come to fruition. It has been held up by politics, union opposition and increased security measures at the border after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Although American truck drivers and trucking companies are able to deliver goods into Mexico, it can be tricky for Mexican trucking companies to operate in the US.
Environmental standards differ between the US and Mexico, and Mexican trucks do not generally meet American air quality standards – so a Mexican driver can’t really operate his Mexican truck across the border. It isn’t really practical for Mexican companies to convert to the same kind of diesel engines used in the US. This would be a huge expense, and the type of gas that powers clean diesel engines is not readily available throughout Mexico. It can be difficult for Mexican drivers to communicate clearly with border patrol and customs agents.
In 2007, the Bush Administration began a pilot program to let Mexican drivers haul cargo through the US. The program only involved 157 trucks, but President Obama cut funding to the program almost as soon as he took office. To retaliate, the Mexican government enacted heavy tariffs on some American imports, like wine, cheese, ketchup and pork. These added import taxes have dented profits for American farmers and wineries.
Although the governments of both countries continue to work towards meeting the goals set out in NAFTA, at present, cross-border trucking between the US and Mexico is a slow process.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mexico’s Economy Ministry estimates the US and Mexico exchange about $1 billion worth of goods every day, and 70 percent of this cargo moves by truck. Large freight carriers like Con-way, Inc. have developed their business over the years to meet this market. International freight carriers may employ American trucks and drivers to work in the US, who then drive the freight across the border where a Mexican-based partner picks up the cargo and takes it to its Mexican destination.
Transfer companies specialize in handling cross-border transactions: these organizations basically handle cargo for a few hundred yards on both sides of the border, taking charge of cargo on one side, managing the customs process and handing the load off to a shipping company on the other side.
If you are interested in working in international shipping along the US-Mexico border, in addition to the general requirements of a clean driving and police record and a CDL, it’s also desirable to be able to communicate clearly in both English and Spanish.