PHARR, Texas (Border Report) — The trucker shutdown and increased wait times for commercial vehicles crossing into South Texas last week via the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge — the nation’s No. 1 port for fruits and vegetables from Mexico — caused an economic toll that exceeds $1 billion, Pharr city officials said.
Economic losses were estimated at $202 million per day and began mounting on April 8 after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered enhanced state inspections of all commercial trucks crossing the international bridge from Reynosa, Mexico.
Abbott ordered the stepped-up inspections after the Biden administration announced it was lifting Title 42 at the end of May, which Abbott believes will send a surge of migrants to illegally enter the country from Mexico through Texas.
The stepped-up inspections caused wait times of up to 20 hours and lines of up to 10 miles long snaking through Reynosa, and eventually prompted truckers to protest and form a blockade that prevented access to the bridge starting April 11. The Pharr bridge closure lasted three days.
Traffic was flowing again Thursday, although much less than normal. But it has picked up significantly after Abbott on Friday signed a pact with Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca, who agreed to “enhanced border security enforcement measures” on the Mexico side to help curb illegal crossings into Texas.
In exchange, Abbott promised to ease inspections by Department of Public Safety officers back to more manageable levels.
Abbott also signed similar agreements on Wednesday in Laredo with Nuevo Leon Gov. Samuel Garcia, and Thursday in Austin with the governors from the Mexican states of Coahuila and Chihuahua.
Normally, only about 2% of all commercial trucks that cross from Mexico are subjected to Level 1 comprehensive safety inspections by DPS troopers.
Critics said the enhanced screenings were unnecessary since U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials screen all incoming vehicles, and U.S. Department of Agriculture officers also open every commercial truck carrying produce and inspect the contents. And because DPS troopers are only allowed to inspect the mechanics of the trucks, such as brakes, engine parts and tires, and are not allowed to open or inspect inside the trailers unless they suspect nefarious activity.
The Level 1 DPS screenings that 100% of all incoming trucks faced last week took 45 minutes to an hour to complete per truck, resulting in truckers idling for days with loads and putting an economic hardship on the trucking and produce industry in South Texas, experts told Border Report.
“We completely understand the need for safety and security at the border. When we saw the impact that the governor’s directive was having on our international commerce, causing significant delays and millions in economic losses, we knew we had to take immediate action and work with our partners to promote a swift resolution of the issue,” Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said in a statement.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was the first Republican to openly break with Abbott last week calling the situation a “catastrophe” and asking Abbott to halt inspections in order to get trucks moving and produce to markets and dinner tables.
“You cannot solve a border crisis by creating another crisis at the border. These Level 1 inspections serve as a ‘clog in the drain’ and divert commerce and jobs to more western ports of entry,” Miller said.
Miller said that the delays and bridge closure came as the U.S. Labor Department reported the indicators for energy, gasoline, natural gas and electricity increased 32%, 48%, 21.6% and 11.1% respectively over last year.
The Labor Department also reported that wholesale food prices are up 12.8% since March 2021. Wholesale food prices jumped 2.4% from February to March, with the cost of fresh and dry vegetables climbing by 42%.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com