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January 6 2020

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Januar y 6 2020 | The Journal of Commerce 89 www.joc.com ANNUAL REVIEW & OUTLOOK 2020 Surface Transportation TRUCK TRAFFIC BETWEEN Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Laredo, Texas, often flows quickly, but there are always exceptions to the rule. On Nov. 27, the eve of the US Thanksgiving holiday, Mexican customs computer systems failed, causing hours-long northbound backups leading to the World Trade International Bridge and delaying cross-border shipments. For four hours, Mexican customs officials were unable to validate exports or imports, according to a report from Mexican newspaper El Mañana. Occasional delays such as this are reminders of how fragile the cross-border connection between the US and its largest trading partner continues to be, nine months after an even more memorable truck- crossing meltdown in April 2019. In that month, the US indirectly imposed what amounted to a partial closure of the border to truck freight when it shifted hundreds of US Cus- toms and Border Protection (CBP) agents from shipment inspection duties to immigration patrol. That step came in the midst of a massive surge in Central American migrants seeking political asylum in the US, some of whom attempted to enter the country illegally. Congestion can be a problem at the US-Mexican border even during the best of times, as higher volumes of freight move through a small number of ports of entry. The four largest US-Mexico border truck A cautionary cross-border tale Shippers need new plan for Mexico-US freight By William B. Cassidy narrative about trucking on its head. "We're enjoying volume growth and yield improvement, and those are good things," John Luciani, chief operating officer at A. Duie Pyle, a Northeast regional carrier based in the Philadelphia area, told The Journal of Commerce. Pyle in September struck a partner- ship agreement with Western regional LTL company Oak Harbor Freight Lines that Luciani said will speed transconti- nental LTL freight. Using team drivers, "we'll have less freight handling and predictable pickup and delivery ser- vice," without stops at intermediate terminals in the middle of the US that can add delays, he said. Getting closer to customers is increasingly important for LTL carriers in the Amazon era. That's one factor in the rash of terminal expansions and openings. E-commerce is helping LTL carriers keep terminals humming with activity despite a decline this year in traditional freight volumes. Compa - nies such as Pyle and Estes also are adding more diverse logistics services. The fastest-growing part of Pyle's business is a dedicated trucking oper- ation. Logistics and supply chain man- agement and brokerage are also part of a broader transportation portfolio. "There is a conversion from truck- load to LTL that people aren't paying attention to," said Satish Jindel, president of transportation research firm SJ Consulting Group. "Ask any LTL carrier what percentage of their business is retail today compared to five years ago, and it's more. They're finding retail can't be ignored because of e-commerce and Amazon." email: bill.cassidy@ihsmarkit.com twitter: @willbcassidy Shutterstock.com

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