Guadalajara, Mexico – Noe Montes, owner of Mexican trucking company Transmontes and a U.S.-based carrier called TM Transportation Services, wants the North American trucking industry to know that Mexican carriers are safety-conscious and progressive.
In an interview with trucking press from the U.S. and Canada at the Expotransporte trade show here last week, Montes said Mexican fleets – particularly those operating into the U.S. and Canada – take DoT regulations seriously and operate new equipment with advanced safety technologies. Monte runs Transmontes in Mexico and TM Transportation Services in Laredo, Texas, hauling auto parts and tires between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. The companies combined operate about 158 trucks with an average age of just four years.
“Right now, you can find Mexican trucking companies investing a lot of money into buying new trucks,” Montes said during an interview arranged by Volvo Trucks. “In my case, all my units are new – no more than four years old. All my trailers are new. I don’t buy any used trucks or trailers, because we understand that as a Mexican company, we need to be more competitive beside U.S.A. trucking companies.”
Running a Mexican and U.S.-based fleet allows Montes to control shipments from the point of pickup through to delivery, which he said is an advantage over carriers that transfer loads to third parties at the border. His commitment to running new trucks has allowed him to tap into a younger driver pool – he said 18- to 28-year-olds make up most of his driver roster.
“They are more open to the technology,” he said. “Those young people, if you give them the opportunity to drive a Volvo with I-Shift, they love to drive that kind of truck because of the technology, the security. They are happy about it. The older drivers refuse a little bit to drive new technology.”
Montes’ businesses are very much reliant on cross-border freight, so it’s important to him that NAFTA is retained – and he thinks it will be.
“I am very optimistic, because the relationship between those three countries is very strong for more than 20 years, and specifically for my business,” he said. “I work mostly for the automotive industry and they are very close with their relationships. I don’t know what is going on, but in my case, I’m very optimistic. I don’t think this can change. It’s not going to be easy, in my opinion.”
Montes said NAFTA, especially over the past five years, has strengthened Mexico’s trucking industry.
“Mexico’s transportation industry, let’s say 20 year ago, it was not considered an important industry,” Montes acknowledged. “But since NAFTA started, the transportation industry in Mexico is getting better.”
While he acknowledged many small fleets still run older equipment, Montes said the larger carriers are updating their fleets and embracing cleaner, safer trucks.
Running two trucking companies – one in the U.S. and the other in Mexico – creates some unique challenges for the young entrepreneur, aged 40. Most of his drivers would prefer to drive for the U.S.-based fleet, where the pay and benefits are better. To help accommodate this transition, Montes provides English training for his drivers, so they can be successful in the U.S. when an opportunity arises.
“We are training our drivers in English,” he said.
The company also provides extensive training on U.S. DoT regulations. Drivers who get promoted to the U.S. fleet are those with the longest tenure and strongest English skills.
“Right now, on hours-of-service, we have zero violations,” Montes said. “Mexican drivers are doing very well and they follow the rules. They are under the DoT rules without problems.”
Drivers operating in the U.S. for the first time are paired with a driver who’s experienced in the U.S., Monte noted. His U.S. fleet has been running on electronic logs for three years – another example of the company’s willingness to embrace change.
“We are ready for the new mandatory regulation,” said Montes.
Montes got his start in the trucking industry with a 3.5-ton truck making local deliveries at the age of 23. He saw greater potential hauling heavier loads and bought a Volvo tractor in 2007. Today, 95% of his fleet are Volvos, which he says he likes due to the technologies offered.
“All our trucks are I-Shift (automated manual transmissions),” he said. “This helps a lot. If you train a Mexican driver and invite him to work in the U.S.A., there are no issues about how to operate a truck in the U.S.A. Volvo has been a good option for me…also, if you have new technology, you can save diesel.”
Montes asks drivers to achieve 7 mpg and rewards them for doing so.
Montes’ two companies employ about 250 drivers, about 50 of whom drive for the U.S. fleet. He wants trucking companies in the U.S. and Canada to know that just because a fleet is from Mexico, doesn’t mean it’s a technological laggard.
“The industry is changing,” he said. “As Mexican entrepreneurs, we are working very hard to be more competitive, to be more efficient with our service…we know we work in a good manner.”