US carriers illegally hiring Mexican drivers to haul loads, sources say

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According to reports, there is a growing concern among U.S. trucking company owners regarding the alleged illegal employment of Mexican drivers to transport cargo within the United States, potentially breaching cabotage regulations.

A South Texas trucking company owner, referred to here as Gerry Reed for confidentiality, expressed his struggle for business survival. He claims that competing carriers are exploiting Mexico-based B-1 visa drivers for domestic deliveries, which is against the cabotage rules designed to protect American trucking jobs.

FreightWaves has highlighted this issue in past articles, revealing that both U.S. and Mexican transportation companies have been circumventing these rules by employing foreign B-1 visa drivers for internal U.S. cargo movements.

Industry insiders like Reed have voiced that this practice offers unfair cost advantages to U.S. carriers who establish lower-cost B-1 driver fleets. Reed notes a worrying trend where more U.S. companies are setting up operations in Mexico to employ B-1 visa drivers, exacerbating the problem.

Legally, B-1 visa drivers can transport loads from Mexico to border cities like Laredo, Texas. However, it becomes illegal when these drivers are then engaged to carry new loads deeper into the U.S. for less compensation.

Reed also mentioned that some carriers with Mexican divisions might use dual license plates to facilitate the use of either U.S. or Mexican drivers, further depressing freight rates.

The misuse of B-1 visa drivers has been a longstanding issue, with a Teamsters-commissioned study suggesting that the practice became prevalent in Nuevo Laredo around two decades ago. The study by Empower LLC indicates a significant presence of B-1 driver fleets and job forums for such drivers on social media platforms.

This malpractice isn’t confined to the Laredo area but is reported across various cities along the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders.

Experts warn that the abuse of B-1 visas is not only detrimental to the U.S. trucking sector but also to the Mexican freight industry. Many skilled Mexican drivers opt for U.S. employment due to higher wages, leading to a driver shortage in Mexico.

Gerardo Alanis Barrios, CEO of Cold Chain Solutions in Laredo, shared that while they face no driver shortages on the U.S. side, their Mexican division struggles to retain drivers. The lure of better pay and safer working conditions in the U.S. is a significant factor driving this trend.

In 2022, Mexican truck driver salaries averaged around $4,400, with earnings varying based on several factors. In contrast, the average U.S. truckload driver’s income exceeded $69,000, including bonuses, in 2021.

Safety concerns also contribute to Mexican B-1 visa drivers’ preference for U.S. jobs. Mexico has seen a rise in cargo theft and violence against truck drivers, with a reported increase in theft incidents and driver fatalities in recent years.

The situation remains complex, with ongoing investigations and calls for stricter enforcement of cabotage rules to address these challenges in the trucking industry.

Alanis Barrios emphasizes that enhancing security is a critical concern that Mexico must address. He points out that the fear of violence on remote roads is deterring parents from encouraging their children to pursue careers in truck driving.

Barrios suggests that Canacar and similar organizations should strive to elevate the status of truck driving as a respectable profession. He proposes organizing community events that showcase truck driving as a family-oriented career, such as competitions where drivers can be accompanied and cheered on by their children, instilling a sense of professional pride.

Furthermore, Barrios highlights the need for improved infrastructure for truck drivers in Mexico, specifically mentioning the scarcity of rest stops with adequate facilities for drivers to relax and have meals. He contrasts this with the United States, where truck stops like Pilot Flying J and Love’s Travel Stops are readily available, offering clean amenities and hot food, which are largely absent in Mexico.

Source: FreightWaves