Mexico Confiscates Some American Pickups Buying Cheaper Mexican Diesel Fuel
By: Mike Levine Posted: 08-08-08 13:20 PT
© 2008

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Americans who buy cheap diesel fuel in Mexico do so at the risk of having their pickup truck confiscated and a fine assessed by Mexican customs officials, according to local newspaper and television outlets in Texas.

Demand for low-cost Mexican diesel fuel has grown to new levels since the beginning of 2008, as the cost of diesel fuel in the U.S. has increased dramatically; it hit a record $4.85 a gallon in mid-July, according to AAA. Diesel fuel prices have started to drop, but the national average is still $4.59 a gallon, up from $2.95 a gallon a year ago.

To avoid paying those high costs in the U.S., some American truck owners who live close to the U.S.-Mexico border have made short trips into Mexico to purchase diesel, which averages about $2.20 a gallon there.

While it’s OK to fill a truck’s primary fuel tank with diesel fuel and return to the U.S., Mexican law prohibits filling auxiliary fuel tanks with diesel. Auxiliary fuel tanks are common on many heavy-duty U.S. pickups used for agricultural and long-distance towing, where stopping for fuel costs time as well as money.

"It's against Mexican federal law to (fill) containers not attached to the fuel system of a car or truck and travel across the international border," Fernando Valdez, deputy consul for the Mexican Consulate in Del Rio, Texas, said in an interview with Mexican customs officials have recently begun confiscating U.S. diesels in Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico, across the border from Del Rio.

Valdez says it’s not a new law, but it hasn't been enforced until recently.

"Higher demand has caused us to enforce the law," Valdez said. "We've had a public campaign on both sides of the border to warn diesel buyers before they purchase fuel (for auxiliary fuel tanks)."

In the past week, several American truck owners have reported their trucks were confiscated on the Mexican side of the border while customs officials ran tests on the diesel fuel in their auxiliary fuel tanks. The trucks are held a minimum of four days or possibly a week or longer, and a fine must be paid before the trucks are returned. The action is causing great concern for Americans doing business in Mexico.

The reason for the law, Valdez said, is to prevent the transportation of combustible fuel over international bridges in vehicles not designed to carry large amounts of flammable substances.

Valdez advises Americans who own pickup trucks equipped with secondary fuel tanks to not drive those vehicles into Mexico, even if they aren't purchasing diesel fuel. "Any pickup with an auxiliary fuel tank may be confiscated," he says.

U.S. truck owners who own 2007-model-year and newer pickups should also be aware that Mexican diesel fuel is not compliant with U.S. diesel fuel guidelines, which specify that only ultra-low-sulfur diesel can be used with new emissions systems. ULSD is rated at 15 ppm of sulfur content, while Mexican diesel sulfur content can be in the hundreds of parts per million. Using fuel with higher sulfur content will damage these trucks’ emissions components, like diesel particulate filters.

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