R.M. Aldrete, S. Samant, O. Gurbuz, K. Ferrell, E. Vargas, A. Berlanga, M. Vazquez
This report examines the costs associated with northbound delays at selected commercial border crossings along the Texas-Mexico border, including locations within the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) planning region. The delays caused due to increased truck traffic, multiple inspections, and suboptimal configuration for vehicle access to the crossing negatively impact various stakeholders, the environment, and the economy. The study uses the Direct Cost Estimation Tool (DCET) to estimate the cost of delay to shippers and carriers1 for northbound commercial traffic across border crossings, considering traffic volume, crossing time, and cargo commodity mix. Six border crossings were analyzed, including the Bridge of the Americas (BOTA) and the Ysleta-Zaragoza Bridge in El Paso, the World Trade Bridge and the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity Bridge in Laredo, the Veterans-Los Tomates Bridge in Brownsville, and Santa Teresa in New Mexico.
In 2022, Laredo ports had three times the northbound monthly truck volumes of El Paso region ports and eight times that of Brownsville. Although BOTA in El Paso had the highest average northbound crossing times in 2019, the World Trade Bridge had the highest median crossing time for trucks using both Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lanes and non-FAST lanes, followed by Ysleta-Zaragoza and BOTA. Santa Teresa experienced the lowest median crossing times among the border crossings in the study. Median crossing times better reflect the time experienced by trucks than average crossing times because delays at the border can be highly variable and median crossing times provide a more representative estimate of the typical crossing experience. The study also discovered that there is not much difference in average crossing times between FAST and standard vehicle lanes, which reduces the advantages of expedited inspection for FAST commercial vehicles. The study also found that the lack of access leading to the border crossing was a significant reason for delays in FAST trucks. Both types of vehicles use the same roads to access the border crossing, which results in the mixing of vehicles rather than dedicated travel lanes.
Laredo region ports carried 55 percent of just-in-time commodity crossings, El Paso region sports carried 39 percent, and Brownsville carried the remaining 6 percent. Laredo ports also reported the highest percentage of loaded trucks carrying non-just-in-time commodities. The study found that the cargo value per truck for agricultural commodities varied significantly among selected ports in 2019, with Laredo having the highest average cargo value for trucks carrying perishable goods and Brownsville having the highest value for trucks carrying nonperishable goods.
The costs of northbound delay were calculated for both shippers and carriers for 2019, with figures provided for the total cost for all trucks using each facility and for the average cost of each truck using each facility. The World Trade Bridge had the highest total shipper cost of delay at $84.5 million (followed by Zaragoza and Colombia) as well as the highest total cost of carrier delay at $61.4 million, for a total cost of delay of nearly $146 million (including both FAST and standard lanes). Brownsville and Santa Teresa had the lowest rates for the total direct cost of delays. Additionally, standard lanes accounted for most of the total direct cost of delay.
On a per truck basis, the El Paso ports had some of the most competitive costs of delay for shippers and carriers. For shippers, the cost of delay per truck was highest at Colombia with $138, followed by the World Trade Bridge with $119, while Zaragoza and BOTA had comparatively lower costs at $112 and $105, respectively. Brownsville and Santa Teresa had the lowest costs per truck for carriers in the group at $35 and $27, respectively.
Northbound costs of delay per truck for carriers followed a similar pattern as costs for shippers. The World Trade Bridge and BOTA had the highest average cost of delay for carriers at $61 and $44 per truck, respectively, followed by Zaragoza and Colombia, both at $33 per truck. Brownsville and Santa Teresa had the lowest costs per truck for carriers at $18 and $13, respectively.
Overall, the findings suggest that El Paso region ports, including Santa Teresa, have some of the most competitive costs of northbound delay per truck for both shippers and carriers, making it an attractive location for industry. The study provides valuable information for decision making by stakeholders, planning agencies, and policymakers and emphasizes the importance of reducing border crossing delays for the economic competitiveness of the Texas-Mexico border region.
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