The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) began safety inspections Thursday for all commercial vehicles coming from Mexico through the Colombia Solidarity International Bridge in Laredo.
“Texas DPS has initiated 100% inspections of commercial trucks at the Colombia bridge as of this morning,” Juan Porras, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s assistant director of field operations in Laredo, said Thursday in an email to the trade community. “We do not have an expected duration of the DPS operations. Following our contingency plans, World Trade Bridge is available to accept shipments with cargo/loads as an alternative entry point into the US through the Port of Laredo.”
The Laredo port of entry is the No. 1 international gateway in the U.S. for trade, totaling $214 billion through the first eight months of the year, according to WorldCity. The Colombia Solidarity bridge is one of two international crossings in Laredo, along with the World Trade Bridge.
Cargo truck wait times at the Colombia Solidarity bridge on Thursday were 90 minutes in both the general cargo and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program lanes. The bridge has four general cargo lanes and two FAST lanes open.
The southern border has seen major disruptions for trucks hauling goods from Mexico to the U.S. for the past several weeks, as high numbers of daily migrant crossings and additional commercial truck inspections by the Texas DPS have slowed traffic at some of the busiest border crossings in the country.
The Texas DPS inspections in Laredo are in addition to commercial checkpoints the agency began Sept. 20 at the Ysleta-Zaragoza International Bridge in El Paso and the Marcelino Serna port of entry in Tornillo.
El Paso-based trade operators said while the migrant situation has impacted trade, the Texas DPS inspections are causing wait times of up to 16 hours for trucks crossing the border.
“What’s happening is hurting Texas business,” Alan Russell, chairman and CEO of the Tecma Group, told FreightWaves on Oct. 5.
The Tecma Group, founded in 1986, operates more than 8 million square feet of facilities — including production, warehouse and distribution spaces — on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Almost everything on the U.S. side of the border related to Mexico trade depends on Texas,” Russell said. “The Texas Trucking Association is sitting there with trucks idling, waiting for their cargo to come across the border and it’s not happening. Distribution centers are waiting on their products, factories in Texas are waiting on their finished goods and components. It’s affecting every sector of the Texas economy.”
The safety inspections in Laredo began three days after Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador blasted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for ordering the border safety inspections and jamming up international trade by leaving at least 19,000 trucks loaded with $1.9 billion of goods stuck waiting in Mexico.
U.S. officials have criticized the safety inspections as unnecessary since Texas DPS does not check truck cargo trailers for drugs, contraband or migrants.
“The inspections do nothing for border security as they are solely focused on mechanical functions, such as checking tire pressure and windshield wipers,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said Thursday in a statement. “I do not blame the men and women of DPS for this as they are carrying out orders from their leadership. This is a waste of taxpayer dollars that will only hurt Laredo’s economy. This is not good for businesses in Laredo, the state of Texas, and the country.”
The border checkpoints launched by the Texas DPS are in addition to commercial truck inspections conducted by Mexican customs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Abbott and Texas DPS officials have declined several requests for comment from FreightWaves on how effective the state-run commercial truck safety inspections have been for deterring smuggling or how long the inspections would continue.
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