Arkansas Transportation Report: Is freight volume recovery beginning to wane?

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 157 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.


July shipments were up 1.4% and freight expenditures (the total amount spent on freight) were up 4.5% compared to the same period in 2016, extending their run of positive compari­sons, according to the Cass Freight Index.

Shipments turned positive eight months ago, while Expen­ditures turned positive seven months ago, according to Don­ald Broughton, a chief market strategist and senior transpor­tation analyst with Avondale Partners, who provides economic analysis for the Cass Freight Index.

Broughton did note that, unlike the May 2017 and June 2017 Shipments Index, which on a nominal basis exceeded the May 2015 and June 2015 levels, July 2017 fell back below July 2015 levels. “This raises the potentially concerning question, ‘Is the strength in the recovery in freight volume beginning to wane?’” he wrote.

Cass uses data from more than $20 billion in annual freight transactions to create the Index.

Traffic this year at Arkansas’ three largest commercial air­ports is still up compared to 2016, according to the latest data, although one of them experienced a rarity in the July.

At Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in High­fill, enplanements — or outbound passengers — in July totaled 60,891, a dip of 4.0% compared to 63,463 enplanements in July 2016. In fact, it’s the first month since April 2016 that monthly enplanements at XNA were lower than the same month the previous year.

Year-to-date numbers are still positive at the airport, though. Enplanements in the January-July period totaled 393,793, up 3.59% from 380,143 in the same period last year.

At Bill & Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, en­planements totaled 594,120 in the January-July period, up 2.59% from the January-July period of 2016. Enplanements for July were up 3.38% from 95,568 to 92,447.

At Fort Smith Regional Airport, the state’s third-largest air­port, enplanements totaled 52,260 through the first seven months, up 4.93% from the same seven-month period last year. Enplanements in July totaled 8,436, up slightly from 8,208 in July 2016.

Through the first seven months of 2017, barge activity on the Ar­kansas River continues to make up ground after heavy rainfall during the spring impacted river traffic.

Information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed 6.60 million tons were shipped January through July, down 2% from the 6.72 million tons during the same period of 2016. That’s an improve­ment from the year-to-date totals through June, when traffic was off by 5% compared to 2016.

River traffic was impacted earlier this year by heavy rainfall in March and through April in areas of Oklahoma that feed into the Ar­kansas River watershed. The increased river levels slowed and even­tually halted shipping on the river. In fact, May’s monthly total of 499,662 tons was the lowest monthly level since June 2015 (390,084 tons).

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