Transmontes has a sister company, TM Transportation Services, in Laredo, TX. (Photo: Transmontes)

Mexican trucking exec defends industry, does not expect major NAFTA changes

Noe Montes is well aware of the perception.

The owner of Transmontes knows there are many in North America that still frown upon the Mexican trucking industry.

He offers them a polite, but stern, response.

“We are working hard to be more competitive – more efficient,” he said.

Noe Montes' companies run about 150 trucks and are in the process of expanding. (Photo: Neil Abt/Fleet Owner)

Montes, 40, took part in an hour-long roundtable with North American trucking media in a conference room above the Expo Transporte trade show floor in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“I understand that as a Mexican company we need to more competitive,” said Montes.

That belief drives Montes’ business decisions, starting with keeping tractors no more than four years.

Between Transmontes and sister company, TM Transportation Services in Laredo, TX., Montes has a fleet of about 150 trucks, with existing orders in the pipeline to expand capacity.

Montes began his career as a truck driver at 23. (Photo: Neil Abt/Fleet Owner)

 The companies are heavily involved in the automotive sector, with Pirelli Tires and Ontario-based Linamar among the biggest customers.

The vehicles are split fairly evenly on each side of the border, with the majority of them manufactured by Volvo Trucks. He added his trucks operating in the United States have used electronic logs for three years.

Montes said his fleet exemplifies the modernization of the Mexican trucking industry, a process he said started in earnest with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

He is optimistic there will not be dramatic changes to the trade deal, but is prepared to ramp up domestic services if the renegotiations result in a disruption.

While trucking in Mexico has no shortage of challenges, driver recruitment and retention are not among them.

The average age of his company drivers in Mexico is 18 to 28, and they are eager for the opportunity to improve their quality of life through trucking, Montes said. That often includes English lessons. All Transmontes drivers receive the same base pay of 35 cents a mile, though those in the Unites States tend to receive additional benefits.

In comparison, some commercial drivers in Mexico receive only one-third as much in compensation, Montes said.

The new U.S-based trucks Montes purchases have the most current engines to meet federal emissions regulations.

The trucks operating in Mexico, however, come with Euro 4 engines, which are similar to model year 2007 engines in the United States.

While more stringent emission rules are under discussion, Mexico is being held back by a lack of ultra-low-sulfur diesel in many areas.

Montes added the overall quality of diesel fuel in Mexico remains a concern, but a change in the law to allow foreign investment in petroleum may help solve this long-standing problem.

Montes was also open in acknowledging too many truck drivers in Mexico fail to follow all of the proper regulations, but more and more are “doing the right things.”

As for Montes, his trucking career began at 23, when, with “zero pesos” he began driving a small delivery truck. He moved on to big rigs in 2007, and started his own company with the aid of his wife, who was on site for the interview.

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