Trucking in Canada a Breeze Compared to Mexico

by Steve Bouchard

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO — You might think that trucking in Canada is overregulated, but Mexican fleets might envy you, because the lack of regulation way to the south creates economic chaos in the country, according to what we heard at a press event organized by Daimler Trucks North America in Puerto Vallarta.

Daimler invited three fleet executives to take part in a discussion panel where all questions were welcomed and candidly answered.

The age of the fleets, unfair and illegal competition, diesel black market, waiting times and lack of good infrastructures are among the main problems according to panelists Alex Theissen of FEMSA Logistica, Miguel Gomez from Fletes Mexico and Ramon Medrano from Frio Express.

“In terms of infrastructures, we are very far away from where we should be,” said Medrano whose reefer fleet consists of 400 tractors. That means poor quality roads that makes it tough on equipment. And this equipment is pretty old in Mexico; trucks are 17 years on average.

Modern and progressive companies like FEMSA, Fletes Mexico and Frio Express operate recent vehicles and their trucks are comparable, or even better, than the top American fleets. However, they have to compete with those older fleets that don’t invest in safety and environment becasue lot of old trucks are imported to Mexico from the United States.

The Mexican government put in place a scrapping program that was supposed to take 6 000 commercial vehicles off of the road; however, only 536 trucks were removed so far, showing that the program “is just not working”, said Stefan K├╝rschner, president and CEO of Daimler Commercial Vehicle in Mexico, in his presentation preceding the panel.

“The scrap scheme is not working, and we also have to combat the diesel black market,” said Miguel Gomez from Fletes Mexico, a fleet of 750 trucks, that hauls general freight and is one of the largest in the country. A big problem for Mexican fleets, he said, is that drivers are stealing diesel from their truck tanks, sell it on the road and replace it by an alcohol-based liquid that ruins the injectors.

“We have to compete against illegality,” said Thiessen of FEMSA Logistica, a multinational company that offers logistic services in Mexico, Panama, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua with more than 12 thousand employees and one of the largest logistic companies in sales terms in Mexico. “They buy used trucks, they buy stolen diesel, they don’t pay taxes. Competing with that is a different story, it’s an unfair competition.”

Driver recruitment and retention is also a problem, even if a truck driver in Mexico is a very well paid and well trained job. There is a lack of truck driver schools, and some drivers prefer to drive for American fleets because they pay them in dollars. Even if truck drivers are well paid, the job has image problems – the driver’s wives don’t want their children to become a driver, said Gomez – and this causes a lot of problems.

Waiting times at the dock are also very long; often a day or more. “It’s very frustrating when you make sure that the driver arrives on time, and then he have to wait one day or more to be loaded or unload,” said Ramon Medrano.

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