State inspections slow truck traffic at border entries in El Paso, Eagle Pass

Truckers have had to wait hours at the checkpoints.

By Michael MarksOctober 5, 2023 12:51 pm, , ,

There’s a logistical nightmare happening at two ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border.

A couple weeks ago, the state of Texas stepped up safety inspections of commercial trucks in Eagle Pass and El Paso. This has led to long delays, and to trade officials on both sides of the border calling for the state’s Department of Public Safety to cut down the number of trucks that get inspected.

Noi Mahoney, cross-border market reporter for FreightWaves, spoke to Texas Standard about the slowdown. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: This isn’t the first time this has happened, as you well know. The state of Texas used its resources to monitor international traffic like this before. Why has this come back now, at least in Eagle Pass and El Paso?

Noi Mahoney: Well, in recent weeks, there’s been a large surge of migrants arriving all along the U.S.-Mexico border. Due to that, federal authorities have shifted customs agents who would normally help process cargo trucks and passenger vehicles to immigration duty.

On top of that, the Texas Department of Public Safety, as you mentioned, began what they call “enhanced commercial vehicle safety inspections” once again. This is the fourth time now they’ve done this over the past year and a half. And their reasoning for this, as they’ve said, is to deter cartel smuggling activity along our southern border.

Can you say a little bit more about how these inspections take place and how much of a delay they impose?

Yes. So when commercial cargo trucks, you know, come up to any border, whether it’s the Mexican border or the Canadian border, they have to pass through ports of entry that are being overseen by U.S. Customs agents. So now, Texas Department of Public Safety, what they’re doing is setting up a secondary checkpoint.

So when these trucks cross through U.S. Customs, they have to stop again and are being inspected by Texas state troopers. So this is causing quite a backlog or delay of cargo trucks – sometimes up to 6 to 12 hours these trucks have been waiting in line to cross.

And I want to make one thing real clear. You know, these commercial vehicle safety inspections, Texas DPS can’t open the trucks. They can’t open the cargo trailers. And so when they do these inspections, what they’re really doing is checking the truck’s brakes or the truck’s windshield wipers or lights.

It doesn’t sound especially effective in trying to stop human smuggling, but maybe I’m missing something.

I think it’s very curious, to say the least.

I’ve contacted Texas DPS repeatedly every time they do one of these, and I’ve never gotten a reply from them. And one of the things I’ve asked them is, you know, “do you find any drugs or weapons during these searches? Have you found any migrants in these trucks?” And I’ve never received a reply.

So it’s unclear to me how effective these secondary inspections are.

Now, you spoke with trade officials on both sides of the border. What do they have to say about all this?

You know, officials in Eagle Pass, where one of these Texas DPS checkpoints is ongoing right now, they describe the situation as dire. The trade bridge in Eagle Pass averages usually about 850 trucks a day. Since these secondary DPS inspections began, they’re averaging about 400 trucks a day – so less than half of what they usually get.

You know, we were just reporting here the other day that Mexico has become the U.S.’s top trading partner. What sort of industries, what sort of business, is affected by these enhanced inspections as as far as you can tell?

You know, you name it: automotive industry, aerospace goods, medical devices, computer supplies. All of these things pass through Eagle Pass, through El Paso, Texas. Everything from, like I said, automotive parts, aerospace goods. And Eagle Pass is one of the biggest border crossings for beer, Mexican imported beer – Modelo, Pacifica, Corona. So that’s being held up at the border right now.

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