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Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Mexico reconsiders banning double tractor-trailers; New Mexico announces $72M air cargo facility; Texas seafood importer sues government for blocking shipment; and trucker receives nine-year prison sentence for drug smuggling.

Mexico reconsiders banning double tractor-trailers

Lawmakers in Mexico are once again considering an initiative that would ban the use of double tractor-trailers — known as “fulles” in Mexico — across the country.

A new bill that would prohibit operation of double tractor-trailers was set to be voted on Dec. 12 in Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies. Discussion of the bill and the vote has since been postponed to a later date.

The initiative to ban double tractor-trailers is aimed at reducing road accidents, with some Mexican officials saying the vehicles are responsible for up to 8% of traffic accidents annually.

Other goals of the bill include reducing the damage and deterioration of transport routes that are heavily used by double tractor-trailers, officials said.

In Mexico, there are around 48,000 double tractor-trailers registered for commercial use, according to data from the country’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation.

A movement to ban double tractor-trailers in Mexico has grown steadily over the years, with the national legislature considering a different bill in 2019 to regulate the vehicles.

One of the sponsors of the latest bill is legislator Lorena Piñón Rivera, who referred to double tractor-trailers as “death machines,” in a news release.

“This legislative [body] has yet to legislate to ban double trailers, because they are death machines that also do not circulate in other countries … due to the danger they represent,” Piñón Rivera said.

Double tractor-trailers are legal in the United States and Canada. U.S. federal limits are 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, 20,000 pounds on a single axle and 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle group. Vehicles are allowed up to seven axles, 86 feet or more between axle sets and a maximum load of 105,500 pounds.

Opponents of the latest initiative against double tractor-trailers in Mexico said a ban could lead to more than 100,000 new tractor-trailers and box trucks on the road to compensate for the lost capacity currently being transported by fulles.

“By prohibiting fulles, 37,100 new tractor-trailers and 106,000 [box] trucks will be required to transport the volume of merchandise currently transported by fulles, which would also have implications for mobility, road safety and the environment,” Ramón Medrano Ibarra, president of Mexico’s National Chamber of Freight Transport (CANACAR), said in a news release.

Eliminating double tractor-trailers could also impact the cost of commercial shipments by up to 30%, officials said.

“Such an initiative runs counter to measures to contain inflation,” CANACAR said in a statement.

New Mexico announces $72M air cargo facility

Burrell Aviation will build a $72 milion air cargo facility at the Doña Ana County International Jetport in New Mexico, according to a news release.

The facility will include multiple structures designed to expand cargo and distribution services, including facilities dedicated to air cargo handling, cold storage, distribution and aircraft maintenance.

The jetport is located about 4 miles from the U.S.-Mexico port of entry in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. 

The new air cargo facility is expected to create up to 1,300 jobs. Officials did not say when the project is expected to be completed.

“Expanding global trade is key to diversifying New Mexico’s economy, which is why I’ve prioritized investments in infrastructure improvement and economic growth in the Borderplex [Alliance],” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

Texas seafood importer sues government for blocking shipment

Houston-based Southern Cross Seafoods is suing the U.S. government for blocking a shipment of fish caught in protected waters near Antarctica.

Southern Cross Seafoods said in a lawsuit filed Oct. 12 in the U.S. International Trade Court that the decision to bar the importation of Chilean sea bass was arbitrary, illegal and would cause significant economic harm to its business, according to The Associated Press.

U.S. officials said the shipment could set a precedent that potentially could lead to overfishing in a sensitive part of the South Atlantic — while also undermining international agreements.

The waters near Antarctica where the fish were caught are an area at the center of a diplomatic feud between the U.S. and U.K. governments.

Trucker receives nine-year prison sentence for drug smuggling

A Mexico-based trucker caught with record-breaking amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl inside his rig last year was recently sentenced to nine years in prison.

Carlos Martin Quintana-Arias was arrested on Nov. 18, 2021, after 17,584 pounds of methamphetamine and 389 pounds of fentanyl were seized from the trailer of his truck.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that both amounts mark the largest seizures in the country of either drug over the last two years.

Quintana-Arias was apprehended while attempting to haul a load of auto parts into the U.S. from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in Southern California. 

Quintana-Arias admitted to authorities that he knew the tractor-trailer contained methamphetamine and fentanyl. He pleaded guilty earlier this year in U.S. District Court to one count of importing a controlled substance. 

Watch: US issue sanctions against three carriers linked to a Mexican drug cartel.

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