Arkansas Transportation Report: Arkansas River traffic tops 2 million tons in January-February 2017

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 139 views 

Editor’s note: The Arkansas Transportation Report is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by the Arkansas Trucking Association and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Other transportation industry related stories can be found on the Arkansas Transportation Report landing page.


Traffic through the first two months of 2017 on the Arkansas River (McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System) totaled 2.092 million tons, up more than 16% compared to the January-February period of 2016. That’s just the second time in seven years tonnage shipped on the Arkansas River has topped the 2 million mark through the first two months of the year. The previous occurrence was January-February of 2013 (2.202 million tons). However, February saw 1.216 million tons shipped, down 0.9% compared to the 1.228 tons in February 2016.

Inbound tonnage on the Arkansas River in the January-February period totaled 870,605 tons, up 8.2% compared to the same two-month period in 2016. Outbound tonnage was 839,554 tons, up 37%, and internal tonnage (tons shipped between ports on the river) totaled 381,911 tons, down 0.5%.

“Activity on the Arkansas River remains steady; however, we are optimistic that tonnage will continue to grow as the new administration focuses on opening the energy sector and promotes “re-shoring” of manufacturing opportunities,” said Little Rock Port Authority Executive Director Bryan Day. “This river system is an incredible asset that needs to be promoted as a safe and efficient way to move cargo to and from this community.  It is the gateway to the world and we are lucky to have it as a resource.”

The February Cass Freight Shipments Index came in at 1.9% growth over the same month in 2016, yet another data point which strongly suggests that the first positive indication in October may have indeed been a change in trend.

In fact, it now looks as if the October Cass Shipments Index, which broke a string of 20 months in negative territory, was one of the first indications that a recovery in freight had begun in earnest.

After taking a positive turn for the first time in 22 months in January, freight expenditures (the total amount spent on freight) continued trending upward in February, up 3.2% over the year-ago period of February 2016. Cass uses data from $26 billion in annual freight transactions to create the Index. The data comes from a Cass client base of more than 350 large shippers.

Donald Broughton, a chief market strategist and senior transportation analyst with Avondale Partners, who provides economic analysis for the Cass Freight Index, said the February data is beginning to suggest the consumer is finally starting to spend a little. It also suggests, he said, that with the surge in the price of crude in October of last year, the industrial economy’s rate of deceleration first eased and then began a modest improvement led by the fracking of DUCs (drilled uncompleted wells), especially in the fields with a lower marginal production cost (i.e., Permian and Eagle Ford). “We have been questioning, ‘How fast will the recovery from here be?’ However, the overall freight recession, which began in March 2015, appears to be over and, more importantly, freight seems to be gaining momentum,” Broughton wrote in his report.

Link here for a PDF of the March 2017 Transportation Report.