November 19, 1999
by Stephanie Gonzalez
Maquila Watch Nov. 1999
Now that the peak holiday shipping season is getting underway, the U.S./México border crossings are more crowded than ever. According to the Journal of Commerce, roughly 2,000 - 2,300 trucks cross through customs at the Otay Mesa crossing each day. However, while the northbound wait used to take 45 minutes to 90 minutes, now it takes up to four hours. People are complaining because the lengthy wait is endangering commerce at the border.
The Customs department says they are not doing anything different. In fact, they ran an experiment this past summer and kept the border crossing manned for 12 hours each day. But because it wasn't the normal busy season, they ended the test because the flow of truck traffic wasn't busy enough to warrant keeping it open longer than the normal nine and a half hours each day.
The other contributing factor to the lengthy waits is that Customs is taking longer to process Mexican truckers at the border in an effort to intercept contraband. Their effort has been successful but at the expense of commerce.
When a truck approaches the exit gate in México, Customs officers collect information primarily for statistical purposes. In theory, the process takes about 20 seconds per truck. When the truck crosses the border into California, U.S. Customs asks the driver several questions, taking a few minutes.
Customs ran their own test to see how long it takes to cross the border. They averaged roughly 30 to 45 seconds. But truckers say there is no way that's possible. Now it seems that both sides of the border are playing games and pointing fingers to make each other look bad.
Whatever the cause of the tangled mess at the border, it's leading to strained relations. Drivers are idling their trucks in 90-plus degree weather, local businesses are complaining that the trucks are blocking their businesses and trucking companies on both sides are losing money every hour their trucks sit in line. The Customs Department has said they will hold a meeting soon to address any concerns.
(Published by North American Production Sharing Inc., Solana Beach; North Amer-ican's Tijuana Office.)