Our driver switched trailers, at a secure facility, headed to the truck stop and scaled out the load. He was away from the truck for about ten minutes to pay for his scale ticket.
About an hour up the road he stopped at the American Customs check point. If you’ve ever travelled to the Mexican border the Americans have check points about 40 miles from the border checking north bound traffic. They’re looking for anything illegal coming from Mexico.
Unknown to our driver an illegal immigrant climbed up on top of his tractor and hid between the deflector and the sleeper.
As you can imagine, this didn’t go over so well at the check point. Fortunately US Customs had seen the individual on top of the truck. Our driver was released after almost 5 hours.
Unfortunately for our driver, who is a FAST driver, this incident counts as an arrest. He obviously wasn’t charged with any wrong doing, but when your job requires you to cross an international border regularly, an arrest now triggers full inspections when you arrive. It does seem unfair that a law abiding driver is the one who suffers from someone else’s criminal activity.
It is fortunate that the customs officers caught the individual on top of the truck. Usually when we switch trailers our drivers have plenty of hours to drive and will drive for a while before making any stops. When illegal’s ride on top of the trucks, to get past the check point, there’s usually a car who follows to retrieve them when the truck stops at a rest area or truck stop. If the truck doesn’t stop, they’ll try to pull the truck over – the danger in this scenario is obvious.
When travelling close to Mexico it’s important to take a few precautions.
- Check the space between the air deflector and sleeper. There isn’t much room in there so if you stand back beside the trailer you should be able to see if there’s anything up there. If you see something, walk away and call the police immediately.
- If the trailer isn’t sealed – seal it or lock it. It doesn’t take long to open the door and throw something in or for a person to jump inside.
- Check the tractor, under trailer, and the DOT bumper for anything that might have been attached to be smuggled into the US.
- Be careful outside of the truck at night. You should always be careful at night in unfamiliar areas, but there is extra risk that close to the border from people wanting to smuggle contraband into the USA.
As truck drivers we are exposed to risks wherever we go. Travelling close to the southern border has its own unique risks as any other place we go. We need to prepared and act according to the risks present.
As a simple rule – call the police if you see anything suspicious or illegal.