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.
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Despite a slow spring due to heightened river levels, barge activity on the Arkansas River through the first 10 months of 2017 has been robust.
Information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed 9.86 million tons were shipped January through October, up 2% from the 9.63 million tons during the same period of 2016.
Activity levels have been improving at a steady rate from earlier this year, when river traffic was impacted by heavy rainfall in March and 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 October monthly total of 1.18 million tons was the highest since February (1.21 million tons) and second-highest monthly total of 2017. It was also an increase of 12% from the October 2016 totals of 1.05 million tons.
CASS FREIGHT: OCTOBER EXPENDITURES RISE
October shipments were up 0.5% compared the previous month, and up 2.9% compared to the same month in 2016. Freight expenditures (the total amount spent on North American freight) were up 3.9% in October, and were up a whopping 11.2% compared to the same month in 2016. That’s the second-largest percentage increase posted in the last five years (June 2014’s 12.1% was higher).
Shipments turned positive 11 months ago, while expenditures turned positive 10 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. He said the large year-over-year increase October continues a trend dating back to May, and is indicative of an economy that is continuing to expand.
HISTORIC INTERMODAL NUMBERS
Total U.S. railroad traffic for the first 10 months of 2017 was 11.17 million carloads, up 3.4% from the January-October period last year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Intermodal units totaled 11.57 million, up 3.7% from the year-ago period.
For October, U.S. railroads originated 1.06 million carloads, down 0.1% from the same month on 2016. Intermodal (containers and trailers) was up 6.4% from October 2016 to 1.14 million, the best month for intermodal rail traffic in history.
Combined there were 2.20 million U.S. carload and intermodal originations in October, up 3.1%.
XNA LEADS ENPLANEMENT GROWTH
Enplanements in October were up at the state’s three largest commercial airports, and year-to-date numbers are also ahead of last year’s pace.
At Bill & Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, enplanements — or outbound passengers — totaled 90,809 in September, an increase of 1.98% from the same month in 2016. Enplanements for the January-October period were 847,979, up 1.89% from 832,243 in the same period in 2016.
At Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill, enplanements in October were 68,015, down 6.68% from 63,752 enplanements in October 2016. That’s the second-highest month for enplanement activity this year, behind June (72,202). For the first 10 months of the year, there were 605,976 enplanements at XNA, up 4.13% from 581,925 enplanements in the year-ago period.
In Fort Smith, there were 8,035 enplanements in October, just a slight increase from 7,947 enplanements in October 2016. For the first 10 months of the year, there were 75,189 enplanements in Fort Smith, up 3.22% from 72,842 enplanements in the year-ago period.
Link here for a PDF of the December 2017 Arkansas Transportation Report.