Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The grim reality of trucking in Mexico

The three bodies found recently about 200 miles south of the U.S. border in Mexico were believed to have been killed by a gang that targets truck drivers just trying to earn a living.

The three fell victim to a gang that robs truckers and sometimes kills them. According to The Associated Press, female members of the group posed as prostitutes to get truckers to stop. The other members of the gang would then rob and sometimes kill the truckers.

The investigation turned up 21 tractors and 18 trailers – as well as the three bodies. To see the full AP story, click here.

These stories are not new. They are just getting more attention because of the cross-border trucking program.

What these stories are going to do is highlight a problem that is commonplace in Mexico. Cargo theft has long been a problem.

Five years ago, I met with a CEO of a U.S.-based trucking company who candidly, yet off the record, shared how his company conducted freight operations in Mexico.

The example he relayed to me involved a contract for shipping shoes out of Mexico to the United States. Hijacking of this particular brand of tennis shoe was so commonplace that the company actually started shipping right shoes in one trailer and left shoes in another.

Obviously, both trailers were heading to the same warehouse in the U.S. Once they both arrived, employees paired the shoes up.

That’s insane.

I asked how many drivers volunteered to haul this freight knowing there was a strong likelihood the freight could still be hijacked.

Not many was his answer. They had to pay a premium – at that point – to the drivers.

That’s going to end. Mexican CDL holders are used to that environment and given as little as they are paid, would be enticed to face the hijackers for far less than their U.S. counterparts.

There comes a point when free trade, dominated by fear, has a cost no one should be expected to pay.