This article is from the March 2001 The Mexico File newsletter.
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The Truck Driver

by Bruce McGovern 

My nephew in Cordoba became a VW Beetle mechanicís apprentice when he finished Prepa (high school.) After a short time, he left that job, and sold office electronics. Soon, that became boring, too, so he got a job driving a truck delivering agricultural chemicals. That often involved trips from Cordoba to the north border. After a short adventure in a land far away, he recently got a job driving a truck for a company which produces chickens. 

Perhaps twice a week, he loads the truck with 18 tons of granulated chicken feed, which is produced in the factory in Cordoba. He takes his bill of lading and puts it under the seat of the truck. He then takes the other bill of lading, the one which certifies the load is no greater than 16 tons, the legal limit of that truck, and proudly displays it for any officer of the law who asks. Then, away he goes, on a 16-hour trip to deliver the feed, to one of the 12 chicken farms the company owns in Chiapas Ė chickens allegedly grow faster in the warmer climate. 

My nephew is very short, not much taller than my wife, who is a very short woman. He got his chauffeurís license before they set a height minimum; if he ever lets his license expire, he wonít get a new one under current law. His truck is a very large, straight truck with dual axles. I estimate its height at nearly 15 feet, and he says gross weight loaded is about 24 tons. It has a 320 liter fuel tank, and it gets good enough mileage that he can go almost 500 miles before he needs to refuel. 

They are expected to drive day and night when they are on a trip. He says his company prohibits pills to stay awake, though other companies allow it. He drinks pop and coffee all night. He said he wishes Mexico had the same rules we do in the States, limiting hours per day behind the wheel. 

He says the chickens are ready to eat at 6 weeks. I raised chickens in high school, and did not remember them being ready to eat that young. Oh, well, they do say memory is the second thing to go. Luckily, I have my World Book CD with me, and it says broilers can reach 4.5 pounds by 7 weeks, so I understood him correctly. 

Each of the 12 farms in Chiapas has about 10,000 chickens in each cycle. So, depending on the down_ time between cycles, the company may very well produce a million chickens a year. That sounds like a big operation, but chicken is a primary source of meat in Mexico. And, Mexico City, with more than 20 million people, obviously consumes that many chickens in a few days. 

My nephew says the company has around 120 farms in various parts of Mexico. Since many rural people raise their own chickens, and the poorest folk canít afford to eat meat at all, I suppose the company might feed Mexico City for a couple weeks, and the entire nation for a few days. 

When my nephew has time off between loads to Chiapas, or one of the other areas, he works in the factory as a mechanic for trucks and almost anything else that breaks. Soon, he hopes to buy his own truck. He wants to sell his 1990 VW Golf, and borrow enough from a bank to buy a $15,000 truck. Then, he can operate as a contract driver, but I donít know what he will haul, unless the chicken company hires contract drivers.