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.
Through the first eight 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 7.60 million tons were shipped January through August, down 1% from the 7.67 million tons during the same period of 2016. That reflects a steady improvement from the previous two months. Year-to-date totals through June were off by 5% compared to 2016. Through July, traffic was down 2%.
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).
The August monthly total of 1.00 million tons was up 9.2% from August 2016 totals of 921,119 tons. The traffic was down slightly, however, from July 2017 totals of 1.04 million tons.
CASS FREIGHT: VOLUME STRENGTH ACCELERATES
August shipments were up 1.1% and up 3.9% compared to the same month in 2016. Freight expenditures (the total amount spent on freight) were up 2.5% in August were 9.7% ahead of the pace compared to the same period in 2016.
Shipments turned positive nine months ago, while expenditures turned positive eight 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. This is partly because of slightly easier comparisons, and in part because of higher oil prices they were less strong in August.
Broughton also noted the 3.9% year-over-year increase in the August Cass Shipments Index is yet another data point which confirms that the first positive indication in October (before the election) was a change in trend. In fact, it now looks as if the October 2016 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.
HURRICANE HARVEY IMPACTS RAIL TRAFFIC
Total U.S. railroad traffic for the first eight months of 2017 was 9.06 million carloads, down 5.9% from the January-August period last year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Intermodal units totaled 9.35 million, up 3.4% from the year-ago period.
For August, U.S. railroads originated 1.34 million carloads, a drop of 0.3% from the same month in 2016. Intermodal (containers and trailers) was up 5.6% from August 2016 to 73,790 units.
Link here for a PDF of the October 2017 Transportation Report.