BrainTrust Query: How are increased border security measures on merchandise shipments affecting U.S. consumers?
James Tenser, Principal, V•S•N Strategies
two weeks ago, I was a passenger in a van traveling south on Rte. 15 toward
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. About 100 kilometers south of the border city
of Nogales, Arizona, we spied a line of 18-wheelers stopped in the northbound
lanes. They were waiting for inspectors in military uniforms to clear them
for the trip further north.
our destination, the Sonora Spring Grape Summit, Marco Antonio Camou,
undersecretary of agriculture for Sonora’s state department of agriculture,
said the backup we had witnessed stretched for “16 or 17 kilometers,”
causing delays of approximately 10 hours duration.
Mr. Camou showed some photos of a just-completed security inspection
facility on the highway designed to process 180 trucks per hour, using
sophisticated x-ray machines and other gear. It was scheduled to open before
the end of April, with a full-time complement of up to 180 Mexican military
personnel barracked on the premises. Their primary mission: Find and stop
contraband, especially drugs.
my return to Tucson, I did some fact-checking and quick math:
average 18-wheeler is 60 feet long; so about 85 trucks, parked end to end,
cover a mile.
kilometers is almost exactly 10 miles; so the line we witnessed encompassed
about 850 trucks.
we assume each truck carries legitimate cargo valued at an average of $50,000,
then we saw $43 million worth of goods sitting idle, for an average of
10 hours, adding a full day to the time of transport.
of capital? $43,000,000 x five percent per year/365 days = about $6,000
of loss of product freshness? Assuming an average of 0.1 percent per day
of driver down time? At $50/driver/day = $50 x 850 = $43,000/day
of diesel fuel burned by idling trucks? Assuming 30 gallons/truck/day x
$3.00/gal. x 850 trucks = $77,000/day
other words, the line-up we witnessed added nearly $180,000 to the cost
of goods moving through that inspection point. In one day.
you, these internal security checkpoints (they are located on most major
highways in northern Mexico) are in addition to the U.S. Customs inspection
points the same trucks must pass at the border. The Mariposa station between
Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona, reportedly handles almost 300,000
trucks crossing into the United States annually. All of them wait in line
too. To try to improve this bottleneck on the U.S. side, a new facility
expansion has been authorized here, at a cost of $200 million over the
next 3-4 years.
For my new friends in
Hermosillo who grow, pack and ship more than 10 million boxes of table
grapes to American markets each spring, the improved inspection facilities
should save time, money and product freshness. Sadly, the cost and complexity
introduced by realistic security measures on both sides of the border is
unavoidable and shared by all of us.
How are increased border security measures on merchandise shipments affecting
U.S. consumers? Are the costs truly justified? How can they be better