CBS 5 Investigates: Trucker shortage affecting grocery store prices

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They are called the heartbeat of the American economy. Big-rig, long-haul truckers deliver everything from televisions to cars to produce you purchase at the grocery store. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) They are called the heartbeat of the American economy. Big-rig, long-haul truckers deliver everything from televisions to cars to produce you purchase at the grocery store. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Most of the winter produce gets sorted, boxed and shipped across the country but it is getting tougher to get these vegetables out of town. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Most of the winter produce gets sorted, boxed and shipped across the country but it is getting tougher to get these vegetables out of town. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
NOGALES, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

They are called the heartbeat of the American economy -- big-rig, long-haul truckers, delivering everything from TVs to cars, to the things you purchase at the grocery store.

Over $17 billion worth of goods crossed the border in 2016.

[SPECIAL SECTION: CBS 5 Investigates]

Most of the winter produce gets sorted, boxed and shipped across the country but it is getting tougher to get these vegetables out of town.

Transportation brokers estimate there are 1,500 trucks sitting in Nogales right now because they don't have drivers.

"I have announced my job openings in newspapers, on craigslist. We have job fairs," said Jim Watson, who runs local trucking company JSJ Enterprises. "I think I've had one application."

Watson has had to hire Mexican truck drivers to run his 20 big-rig trucks. 

They carry valid U.S. trucker licenses but they're required to go straight from Mexico to their destinations in the U.S. which means they're not a real solution to the trucker shortage and they can't pick up produce in Nogales.

"A lot of these produce companies are going to move out of Nogales and find other ways to transport their product so a lot of local workers are going to be out of a job," said Watson.

For now, this means rates are going sky high.

A load from Nogales to L.A. used to cost $1,600 now costs $2,200 and will likely go even higher.

The result will be higher prices in the grocery store and department stores for consumers.

One possible solution is increasing the number of foreign trucker visas. Last year, the President Trump's administration allowed for 1,500 more but there will need to be more than that to make a difference. 

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