Bazan: There’s no single reason for the decrease in truck crossings at the Pharr International Bridge

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PHARR, Texas – Luis Bazan, director of the Pharr International Bridge, says he and his colleagues are still analyzing why the number of trucks crossings are down.

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Bazan said there are likely a whole slew of reasons. 

“Across the board, if you look at the national news and even international news, we’re seeing a perfect storm, as I mentioned last time, and it’s not perfect in a good way. It is perfect in a bad way,” Bazan said.

The statistics for October 2023 show that the total number of crossings at the Pharr Bridge totaled 101,828. That is a decrease of 5,529 in vehicles, as compared to October 2022. That equates to a decrease of 5.15 percent. 

Bazan reported on these numbers at the November board meeting of the Pharr Bridge Board. The same issue came up at the October meeting.

What makes these statistics more depressing is all the near-shoring that is happening in Mexico. Big manufacturing firms are moving their plants to Mexico to avoid supply chain disruptions and be nearer to the U.S. market. So, one would think, the number of truck movements between the US and Mexico would be up.

“There are a lot of different issues that are affecting trade as a whole. So, just as there is good news (with near-shoring), there is also bad news because of this perfect storm,” Bazan said.

“Less production means lower volumes. So that equals less crossings, correct? You also have high fuel prices. Diesel is not cheap, and it has not really fluctuated to a lower degree. But also, you have high insurance premiums. You still continue to see a truck driver shortage, and that’s nationwide. And, right now, a lot of these companies are actually surviving, especially in transportation, by way of acquisitions or mergers. It’s not solely on their own.”

Southbound truck crossings at the Pharr Bridge totaled 57,059 in October. That is a decrease of 10.71 percent compared to the same month last year. It is the southbound trucks that make money for the City of Pharr because tolls are collected on southbound journeys. 

Northbound truck crossings at the Pharr Bridge totaled 58,427 in October. That is a decrease of 2.40 percent compared to the same month last year.

Car crossings for the Pharr Bridge totaled 44,769 for the month of October. That is an increase of 3.03 percent compared to the same month last year.

Revenues for the Pharr Bridge totaled $1,396,136 for the month of October, a decrease of $151,025, or 9.76 percent over the same month last year. Automobile and other crossings brought in $179,076. Truck crossings brought in $1,210,108. Profit on the peso brought in $6,952. 

Bazan said the Pharr Bridge Board is doing a lot of research to find out why there are less crossings.

“We are doing our legwork. We’re doing our due diligence. We are now talking to the manufacturers, talking to the entire supply chain, putting together groups of people to discuss these issues. And we held our first Cross Check event last month precisely for that same reason. We want to hear it from the source,” Bazan said.

“So we’re starting to look at the overall bigger picture. I’ve always said – and I’ve been talking about this for a couple years now, ever since COVID – that there’s been a shift in trade. And that shift in trade has not stopped and, unfortunately, it’s out of anybody’s control.”

Bazan pointed out that even if the value of imports and exports goes up, this does not necessarily equate to more crossings. 

“What we’re trying to figure out is, are they (the trucking companies) going somewhere else? Or are they not going anywhere? Is it that there is just less traffic? Value is one thing, you’re going to see an increase in that. But it doesn’t necessarily equate to an increase in crossings.”

Asked how the Pharr Bridge compares to other land ports, Bazan said some are doing well and others not so. 

“It’s kind of it’s mixed. You see some bridges where they’re down. But some of them are up. We’re starting to see an increase in non-commercial traffic, and yet you see other bridges that have stagnated. This is something we’re analyzing as well.”

Asked if congestion at the Pharr Bridge could be contributing to less truck movements, with carriers choosing to cross into and out of Mexico via another land port, Bazan said: “We don’t know that for a fact, honestly. It hasn’t been pointed out. It’s not in any type of study. Honestly, I can’t pinpoint it to anything specific. There are just several factors out there. That’s all I can say.”

That congestion should ease considerably once the second span is built at the Pharr Bridge.

Bazan added: “I can tell you, if you were to look at our notes, we’ve factored in about 100 different issues that are taking place and this is across the board nationwide, international.”

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