In Logistics
Diego Rodríguez

Diego Rodríguez
Director of Logistics Practice
AMI

The lifeblood of trade in South America flows through a network of rumbling trucks traversing borders, weaving a tapestry of economic exchange. Cross-border trucking plays a critical role in facilitating the movement of goods between countries in Mercosur, fostering regional integration, and propelling economic growth. However, this vital sector faces many challenges that hinder its efficiency and constrain its potential in the Andean region. As of 2023, AMI forecasts the value of the cross-border trucking industry in South America to be $13.1 bn, with a CAGR of 4% until 2026.

This article delves into the state of cross-border trucking in South America. We begin by exploring its significance for regional economies and trade, followed by an examination of the key routes and corridors that connect production centers, distribution hubs, and consumer markets across the continent. Section 2 dissects the major challenges plaguing cross-border trucking, including regulatory hurdles, infrastructure bottlenecks, and security concerns. Section 3 explores growth opportunities, highlighting emerging markets, e-commerce trends, and the potential for optimizing supply chains.

Exploring 2023-2024 Logistics Trends in Latin America

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Exploring 2023-2024 Logistics trends

in Latin America

Challenges and opportunities with nearshoring, warehousing, trucking, ocean/air transportation, and cold chain.

Section 1: Overview of Cross-Border Trucking in South America

The economic prosperity of South American nations depends on the smooth flow of goods across their borders, especially with their neighbors. Cross-border trucking facilitates regional trade by transporting essential commodities like agricultural products, manufactured goods, and raw materials, fueling economic activity, fostering job creation, and strengthening trade relations between countries. However, intra-regional trade in South America lags other global regions between 10 and 15%, compared to Asia at over 25%. Border challenges mean it is about 20 percent cheaper for a company in Brazil to trade with India than a neighboring South American country. Several factors, such as inadequate road, marine, and air transport have limited trade. According to the World Bank, other constraints impacting intra-regional trade include protective tariffs, real and perceived nontariff barriers, investment restrictions, and a broad trust deficit throughout the region.

Main Cross-Border Trucking Routes and Corridors

The geography of South America dictates the major cross-border trucking routes. The Pacific Corridor, a vital artery stretching from Ecuador to Chile, connects Andean producer regions with Pacific coast ports. The Atlantic Corridor, linking Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, facilitates trade between these members of Mercosur (Southern Common Market). The Bioceanic Corridor, under development, aims to connect Brazil’s Atlantic ports with Chile’s Pacific ports, offering a crucial east-west link, bypassing the lengthy route around Cape Horn. The Andean Corridor links Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, connecting Andean producers with Pacific coast ports. These corridors and numerous bi-national routes form a complex network that keeps South American trade humming.

Connecting Production, Distribution, and Consumption

Cross-border trucking bridges production centers nestled in the hinterlands, distribution hubs strategically located near population centers, and dynamic consumer markets. For example, trucks haul soybeans from fertile Argentine plains to ports for export, while simultaneously delivering manufactured goods from Brazil’s industrial heartland to bustling Chilean cities. This movement ensures that producers find markets for their goods, distributors have products readily available, and consumers enjoy access to a diverse range of commodities.

Section 2: Challenges Facing Cross-Border Trucking

Despite its undeniable importance, the cross-border trucking sector in South America grapples with several challenges that impede its efficiency and growth. These hurdles can be broadly categorized into three areas: regulatory complexities, infrastructure deficiencies, and security concerns.

Regulatory Barriers and Bureaucratic Hurdles

Navigating customs procedures at border crossings can be time-consuming and frustrating for truck drivers. Inconsistent regulations, lengthy inspections, and a lack of harmonization across countries lead to delays and increased transportation costs. Furthermore, cumbersome paperwork requirements can bog down the process, adding unnecessary administrative burdens on trucking companies.

Infrastructure Deficiencies Hinder Efficiency

The smooth flow of cross-border trucking is often hampered by poor road conditions, inadequate border facilities, and congestion at crossings. Many roads in South America suffer from potholes, lack of signage, and insufficient maintenance, leading to longer travel times and higher vehicle wear and tear. Outdated border infrastructure struggles to handle the increasing volume of traffic, resulting in long queues and delays.

Case Study: The Price of Delays at the Paso Cristo Redentor Border Crossing

The Paso Cristo Redentor, a high-altitude mountain pass on the border between Argentina and Chile, serves as a critical trade link. However, inadequate infrastructure and harsh weather conditions frequently lead to closures and delays. A 2023 study by the Argentine Chamber of Commerce estimated that a single day of closure at the pass translates to losses exceeding $10 million for cross-border trade. Delays also lead to spoilage of perishable goods and contribute to higher food prices for consumers.

Security Concerns and Cargo Theft

Cargo theft remains a significant concern for cross-border trucking companies in South America. Certain regions and routes are particularly notorious for criminal activity, forcing companies to invest heavily in security measures like GPS tracking and armed escorts. These additional security costs eat into profits and make cross-border trucking a less attractive proposition for some companies.

Section 3: Leading players in the region

The list of firms in this section is incomplete and represents a selection of companies known for cross-border trucking in South America. A company’s prominence can vary depending on factors like cargo type, route specialization, and company size.

Section 4: Opportunities for Growth and Expansion

Despite the challenges, the cross-border trucking sector in South America presents exciting opportunities for growth and expansion. Emerging trade corridors, new markets, and a growing emphasis on new transport alternatives are fueling demand for efficient cross-border transportation services.

Emerging Trade Corridors and New Markets

The economic landscape of South America is constantly evolving, with new trade corridors and markets offering lucrative prospects for cross-border trucking companies. The Bioceanic Corridor, once completed, will create a vital east-west link, facilitating trade between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Additionally, the growing importance of the Amazon region, with its vast natural resources and developing economies, presents new opportunities for cross-border trucking companies that specialize in transporting goods to and from this remote area.

The disruptions caused by the prolonged operational limitations at the Panama Canal in 2023 sent shockwaves through global supply chains, particularly impacting South American exports. Companies scrambled to find alternative routes and modes of transportation to keep their products flowing and meet customer demands. This situation became a major catalyst for the cross-border trucking sector in South America.

Chilean wine and salmon producers, heavily reliant on the Panama Canal for exports to Europe, were among those significantly affected by the delays. Many wineries, particularly those specializing in premium wines, opted to explore cross-border trucking options. Companies like Viña Concha y Toro partnered with experienced trucking firms to transport their wines overland to ports in Argentina and Brazil, allowing them to reach key markets more efficiently and maintain delivery schedules. This shift highlighted the potential of cross-border trucking as a viable alternative for specific cargo types and regional trade routes.

Capitalizing on E-commerce Growth

The e-commerce boom sweeping across South America is a major growth driver for the cross-border trucking sector. As online shopping continues to gain traction, demand for fast and reliable delivery of goods across borders will surge. This presents an opportunity for trucking companies to adapt their services to cater to the specific needs of e-commerce retailers, such as offering faster transit times, flexible delivery options, and robust tracking systems.

Regional Trade Agreements and Supply Chain Optimization

Regional trade agreements like Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance aim to facilitate trade flows between member countries. These agreements often reduce or eliminate tariffs and customs duties, making cross-border trucking a more attractive proposition for companies. Furthermore, a growing focus on optimizing regional supply chains around the US will create opportunities for cross-border trucking companies to partner with manufacturers and retailers to deliver cross-border transport solutions, reducing costs and improving overall efficiency.

Conclusion

The cross-border trucking sector in South America plays a pivotal role in fostering regional economic integration and propelling trade growth. While challenges persist in regulatory hurdles, infrastructure deficiencies, and security concerns, exciting expansion opportunities exist. Emerging trade corridors, the e-commerce boom, and a growing emphasis on supply chain optimization are creating a fertile ground for growth. By partnering with AMI, companies conducting market research in Latin America gain a valuable advantage thanks to our local expertise, tailored research solutions, and a broad range of services that empower companies to make informed decisions, develop winning strategies, and navigate the complexities of the Latin American market landscape.


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