Infographic | Texas Vehicle Inspection Policy
From April 8th to April 16th, Texas implemented a vehicle inspection policy to attempt to address irregular migration and illicit drug flows across the U.S.-Mexico border. State troopers conducted nearly 4,100 inspections with no evidence of illegal contraband or human trafficking. With the implementation of this policy, wait times at the border increased from 1-hour to upwards of 30 hours. Economists posited that the vehicle inspection policy caused an estimated $4.2 billion USD economic loss for the Texas economy, and critics in both U.S. and Mexico argued that Texas’ ambitions for an improved security agreement did not justify the heavy economic losses for both countries.
The Texas-Mexico Trade Relationship
The Texas-Mexico relationship is essential to the economic well-being of communities on both sides of the border, including the broader Texan economy and the aggregate U.S. economy. Of the 49 commercial roadway crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border, 28 are located in Texas. Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs values the total trade of the Texas-Mexico relationship at $231.1 billion USD, which is more than the U.S. total trade with the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Spain combined. Texas-Mexico trade is projected to grow 234% to reach $1.5 trillion USD by 2050. That estimated growth would likely bring more employment opportunities to the Lone Star State, where trade with Mexico already supports over 466,000 jobs. However, policies such as the vehicle inspection policy, and their subsequent impacts, could jeopardize economic growth in the future.
Due to the vehicle inspection policy, only 30 to 40 trucks crossed into the U.S. due to prolonged wait times; usually around 3,000 truckscross the border each day. . Researchers estimate that idling from heavy and light-duty vehicles wastes some 6 billion gallons of fuel annually in the United States. For each hour a truck idles, one gallon of diesel fuel is consumed, contributing to fuel waste, air contamination, and health hazards. In the United States, avoiding the unnecessary idling of vehicles would be equivalent to removing 5 million vehicles from the road. The environmental effect of an idling vehicle for just 10 minutes can release one pound of harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,harming human health and contributing to the climate crisis.
Mexican truckers experienced the brunt of the Texas vehicle inspection policy’s financial repercussions as they received the same base pay regardless of prolonged wait times at border crossings. According to testimony from Raymundo Galicia, a Mexican trucker, his journey back to Mexico took him 30 hours because he had to detour from his normal route to the Santa Teresa, New Mexico, border crossing into San Jerónimo, Chihuahua.
Mexican truckers did not stand by upon this policy’s implementation. Truckers on the Mexican side of the border protested the lack of adequate access to restrooms, food, and overtime pay while they waited up to 30 hours to cross the border. Nearly 500 trucks blocked the Pharr-Reynosa border crossing in protest of the increased wait times to cross into the United States.
The effects of the Texas vehicle inspection policy reverberated beyond the state of Texas, it was felt across the United States and Mexico. An estimated 25,000 Mexican export shipments were held up per day in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where over 45% of U.S. imports from Mexico enter the country. At the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge alone, an estimated economic loss of $8 million USD occurred daily as a direct consequence of the policy.
Delays disrupted supply chains, impacting a variety of merchandise. This issue was particularly salient in the fresh food industry; rotting merchandise led to an estimated $150 million loss in revenue. Due to supply chain interruptions, exacerbated already by rising food prices and general inflation, U.S. consumers can expect to experience higher food prices in their local supermarkets, such as avocados, which are expected to sell for $5 USD each. Strains may also affect employment, as trade with Mexico not only stimulates the U.S. economy, but it also sustains 7 million U.S. jobs.
Economic Pivot to New Mexico
New Mexico contains 3 of the 48 border crossings, including a major crossing between Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and San Jerónimo, Chihuahua. Mexican Secretary of Economy Tatiana Clouthier Carillo stated that Mexico will decrease shipments through commercial border crossings in Texas, as its political decisions have raised concern about its reliability as a trading partner. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas also announced that some cross-border traffic would be diverted from Texas to New Mexico – a move that will take months to implement. In response to Texas’ policy, the U.S. government is considering adding a direct rail link to New Mexico’s border crossing to diversify the ports used to import products from Mexico. Similarly, Mexico seeks to minimize the risk of stalled shipments and economic reliance at border crossings with Texas in the future. Minister Ebrard tweeted that new infrastructure for the border with New Mexico’s Santa Teresa crossing will facilitate cross-border trade and transport.
As a result of the Texas vehicle inspection policy, New Mexico could expect increased economic investment from both the U.S. and Mexico.
About the Author
The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute. Read more