Mexico mulls ending daylight saving time, potentially affecting cross-border shipments

Bill to cease clock practice across most of country could pass this week

After years of discussion, Mexico is close to finalizing legislation that would say goodbye to daylight saving time (DST) across most of the country.

A bill to end DST was recently approved by Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies and is expected to face a vote in the nation’s Senate sometime this week.

If approved, it would abolish the practice of turning the clocks forward and back by one hour each spring and fall. Mexico would turn back its clocks for DST for the last time in the country on Oct. 30. The clocks would not be turned forward for DST in spring 2023.

Ending DST would not affect the Mexican states along the U.S. border, including Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. Those states will keep DST to stay synchronized with the U.S., according to the legislation. The Mexican states of Sonora and Quintana Roo don’t follow DST.

However, key parts of Mexico such as Bajio — a region of Central Mexico and major industrial center for manufacturing cars, auto parts and heavy-duty trucks — would be affected by the end of DST, logistics operators said. 

“Our two large operations — one in Bajío and one in Monterrey (Mexico) — I was recently speaking to our teams there about the DST bill. They definitely feel like it will have an effect,” Jordan Dewart, president of Redwood Mexico, told FreightWaves. 

Redwood Mexico is a part of Chicago-based Redwood Logistics and provides services such as digital freight brokerage, freight management and supply chain solutions. 

Dewart said everything from freight scheduling and truck drivers’ hours of service to the normal workday hours across Mexico and the cost of shipments could be affected.

“Any type of perishable goods is going to be hugely impacted,” Dewart said. “Adding one hour of extra diesel running time to perishable goods at the required temperatures, or automotive parts when you have specific windows for deliveries in just-in-time inventory, one hour of difference is going to take an incredible amount of planning.”

Mexico’s president vows to end DST

Ending DST has been one of the initiatives of Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his allies since he took office in 2018.

Mexico adopted DST nationwide in 1996 to closely follow the time change in the United States, as well as reduce energy consumption during summer months. Another reason Mexico embraced DST was to facilitate more trade and tourism with the U.S. under the former North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The United States, Canada and Mexico implemented NAFTA on Jan. 1, 1994. When Mexico adopted DST in 1996, total trade between Mexico and the U.S. was $131 billion, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement replaced NAFTA in 2020. Last year, U.S.-Mexico trade totaled $661 billion.

Some Mexican officials have long criticized DST for the effect it has on the mental health of many across the country.

“In 1996, [Mexican] President Ernesto Zedillo brought us in line with the U.S. following the signing of NAFTA. … The time has come to get rid of this disastrous daylight saving time,” Mexican Senator Félix Salgado Macedonio said when he discussed the idea of ending DST in March 2019.

Salgado Macedonio and other Mexican officials have said DST has negatively affected people due to changing the clock back and forth twice a year. According to Mexico’s government, a recent poll showed that more than 70% of citizens favored getting rid of DST and that energy savings derived from the time changes were minimal.

“A study carried out by the Ministry of Energy, the Federal Electricity Commission and the Ministry of Health concluded that the damage to health is greater than the importance of the economic savings obtained by lower consumption of energy,” Obrador said at a news conference in July. 

Daylight saving time was introduced in the U.S. during World War I to cut energy consumption when fuel was scarce. The idea was that during the summer daylight hours would shift further into the evening so people didn’t have to turn on their lights until later. In 1966, the U.S. government mandated every state to implement DST.

A movement to end DST in the U.S. has grown steadily over the years, with the twice-a-year time changes linked to increases in strokes, depression and traffic crashes. According to a poll from Monmouth University in New Jersey, 6 in 10 Americans said they preferred making daylight saving time permanent.

In the trucking industry, the effects of the one-hour shift to DST can bring about deadly consequences for drivers every spring, experts said.

“Losing an hour of sleep does not seem like a big deal to most nonshift workers, but to an already tired trucker, the impact of daylight saving time is always significant — and sometimes deadly,” according to a 2019 FreightWaves report.

In 2018, Florida became the first state to enact legislation to permanently end DST if Congress approves the change. Since then, 19 other states have created similar legislation to halt DST.

In March, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act, a measure to make DST permanent. The bill still needs approval from the House of Representatives and for President Joe Biden to sign into law.

Ending DST could disrupt U.S.-Mexico trade

While López Obrador hasn’t made any known public comments on how ending DST could affect U.S-Mexico trade, Dewart said it could also impact how shippers approach their cross-border freight movements.

Shippers will have to alter schedules in April when Mexico does not move its clocks forward if the legislation passes this week, Dewart said.

“Shippers are going to have to adjust, meet both with their suppliers, such as for buying raw materials in the U.S., or their customer base as well in order to meet lead times,” Dewart said. “For example, when the U.S. changes its clocks in April, you will be losing an hour crossing the border for half of the year. That time will have to be made up by getting up earlier, sending documents earlier. Over the course of a large-scale production, that one hour a day adds up.”

Not all cross-border trade professionals feel that the end of DST in Mexico will disrupt trade. 

“As a cross-border carrier, we actually already get a taste of this a few weeks per year, as there are a few weeks’ difference between when the United States changes their clocks and when Mexico changes their clocks,” said Ed Habe, vice president of Mexico sales for Averitt Express.

Cookeville, Tennessee-based Averitt Express is a freight transportation and logistics services provider operating in the southern U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Averitt boasts 4,600 tractors and 14,900 trailers. 

Throughout most of Mexico, DST runs from the first Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October. Daylight saving time in the U.S. starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

“Most border areas keep the same time as the United States,” Habe said. “In all of my years working with shippers in both the United States and Mexico, I’ve never heard of any issues that come from the time changes.”

However, Dewart said for a few weeks (due to setting daylight savings time at different times) the U.S. and Mexico are in different DST, it does take a huge adjustment.

“What will happen is Mexico’s going to have to come in and basically start their day an hour early to adjust to most of the U.S. customers looking for updates on shipments in the logistics world,” he said. “If Mexico ends DST permanently, it would affect half of the year, which would be a really big adjustment for sure.”

José Minarro, managing director of Sunset Transportation’s logistics operations in Laredo, Texas, agreed with Dewart that regions in Mexico like Bajío could see the biggest effects from eliminating DST.

Sunset Transportation is a St. Louis-based 3PL. The company opened a customs brokerage office and warehouse facility in Laredo, Texas, in 2019.

“In the Bajio region, traffic and logistics teams at the plants in Mexico start at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., and if their counterpart in the U.S. arrives a little earlier around 7 a.m., there is a gap that causes many supply chains to be nervous due to lack of response early in the morning,” Minarro said. 

Minarro also pointed out there is a similar effect in time difference between many Mexican and U.S. logistics operations at the end of the day. A solution would be for both U.S. and Mexico cross-border operations to be more flexible with staffing and scheduling.

“A current challenge for the Mexican side is getting information or documentation from their U.S. contacts after 5 p.m., when many folks in the U.S. are already driving home,” Minarro said. “If the Mexican counterpart could have until 6 p.m. for their time to ask for this type of missing information [from their U.S. counterpart], it would close some of the current gaps we face with these time challenges.”