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Cross-border transportation Mexico-USA: Direct box or transshipment?

Cross-border transportation between Mexico and the United States is of vital importance as it impacts the economic growth of both countries, facilitates the commercial flow of goods and services between these trading partners, which reached $745.628 billion in 2023, according to Data México. Likewise, cross-border transportation allows for greater integration of both economies, thus creating growth opportunities for businesses and more employment sources.


This article will provide the reader with a clear understanding of the different cross-border transportation options between Mexico and the United States, including figures, and conducting a comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of each. This will enable companies to make informed decisions about the best way to transport their goods from Mexico to the United States or vice versa.


Main types of cross-border transportation MX-USA


The types of transportation used for cross-border trade between Mexico and the United States are trucking, railroad, maritime, and air. Road transport refers to the movement of goods or passengers via public roads. Meanwhile, rail transport moves people or goods via railways. Maritime transport moves goods across the oceans' surface, transporting goods from one continental region to another. Finally, air transport involves the movement of cargo and people in aircraft. In the period from January to August 2023, Mexico's exports to the United States were 90% by truck, 7% by air, 2% by rail, and 1% by sea.


Land Transport as the Main Means for MX-USA Cross-Border Trade


Around 70% of bilateral trade is transported by land through various border entry ports. Road transport stands out prominently; according to The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, during 2023, the number of trucks entering the United States from Mexico amounted to 7,356,659, compared to 7,258,400 registered in 2022, an increase of 1.4% over the previous year.


This has been driven by various factors, including the Trade Agreement between Mexico, the United States, and Canada (TMEC), formerly NAFTA, which has been beneficial for both exporters and transport companies for several years; on the other hand, the geographical proximity and extensive road network connecting Mexico and the United States facilitate this process and save costs; and the versatility of land cargo transport in the types of vehicles that allow transporting any type of merchandise in any quantity and size.


Direct Box and Transshipment Box


For the transportation of cargo from Mexico to the United States, or vice versa, there are two options that each may be more or less viable to use depending on the customer's needs:


Direct box crossing

Direct box crossing involves moving the cargo across the border directly, without transferring it from one box to another during the journey. For example, if a package is sent from Mexico to the United States, or vice versa, it remains in the same box from origin to final destination, without changing hands. However, this process requires permits.

In Mexico, the Directorate General of Federal Road Transport of the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation grants permits to individuals and companies in both the United States and Canada that wish to offer international transportation services in Mexico.

In the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates cross-border operations and issues the USDOT number, necessary for companies to transport cargo within the country.



Transshipment of goods.

In this modality, box crossing involves transferring the cargo from one box to a new one after crossing the border. The process begins when the carrier picks up the cargo in Mexico or the United States and takes it to a secure yard in the border area. Then, the cargo is moved across the border to the transshipment point in the neighboring country, where it is transferred to a box of the carrier of that country for final delivery. Essentially, the cargo changes boxes once it crosses the border.



Direct Box

Transhipment Box


-Recommended for delicate merchandise

-Avoids delays at the border

-Greater security due to less handling

-More control over the supply chain

-Can be more economical

-May be the only viable option for routes with size or weight restrictions

-More flexibility for routes and schedules




-Can be more expensive

-May not be the most viable option for routes with size or weight restrictions

-Less control over the supply chain

-Longer transit times

-Lower security due to increased manipulation.

-Longer transit times.

-Less control over the supply chain.



In conclusion, cross-border transportation between Mexico and the United States is essential for the economic growth of both countries, facilitating commercial flow and economic integration. Although there are several options available, land transportation, especially by road, dominates due to its versatility and efficiency. In this regard, it is crucial to consider the different transportation modalities, such as direct box and transshipment, each with its own qualities that suit the different needs of each company and customer. However, despite the good bilateral trade flow, there are significant challenges to ensure efficient cross-border transportation in the future.


At SPARX Logistics, we have the experience and licenses to carry out your Mexico-United States import and export. We provide a full customs clearance service and expert advice to ensure that your company complies with all government regulations and requirements.





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A new sourcing location? Looking for potential savings? A tricky logistic situation you just can’t solve? Send us a message and we’ll respond within 48 hours of receiving your inquiry.
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