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.
Despite a slow start in the spring, barge activity on the Arkansas River in 2017 reached its second-highest total in the past six years.
Information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed 11.91 million tons were shipped January through December, up 3% from the 11.54 million tons during the 2016.
2017 continued an upward climb for the Arkansas River, after tonnage had fallen below 10 million tons (9.96) in 2015 for the first time in at least four years. Tonnage totaled 11.719 million tons in 2014, down from the 12.139 million in 2013 but better than the 11.687 million in 2012 and the 10.6 million in 2011.
In 2017 inbound tonnage on the Arkansas River totaled 4.21 million tons, up 1% compared to 2016. Outbound tonnage for the year totaled 4.85 million tons, up 9%, and internal tonnage (tons shipped between ports on the river), totaled 2.84 million tons, down 2%.
SHIPMENTS, EXPENDITURES STAY POSITIVE
Not only did the Cass Freight Shipments and Expenditures Indexes extend their run of positive year-over-year comparisons, but they have become increasingly positive.
December shipments came in at 7.2% higher than the same period of December 2016. Freight expenditures, or the total amount spent on freight, rose 16.0% over the year-ago period of December 2016.
The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index slipped 5.7% in December, falling for the first time in three months. For the year, though, the index was up 3.7% compared to 2016. It was the largest annual gain since 2013 (6.1%). The ATA is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry.
INTERMODAL TRAFFIC SETS RECORD
Total U.S. railroad traffic in 2017 was 13.47 million carloads, up 2.9% from the January-December period in 2016, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Intermodal units totaled 14.01 million, up 3.9% from 2016.
For December, U.S. railroads originated 998,168 carloads, up 2.5% from the same month in 2016. Intermodal (containers and trailers) was up 5.3% from December 2016 to 1.06 million. Combined there were 2.06 million U.S. carload and intermodal originations in December, up 4.0% from December 2016.
“Rail traffic finished 2017 on a positive note,” AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray wrote in the report. “In December, total carloads were up for the first time in six months, and 14 of the 20 carload categories we track saw year-over-year gains – the most for any month in almost three years. Meanwhile, intermodal volume was up for the 11th straight month and set a new annual record, breaking the previous mark set in 2015.”
AIR TRAFFIC CLIMBING
Traffic out of Arkansas’ three largest commercial airports was up in 2017, with a record-setting total in Northwest Arkansas.
Enplanements — or outbound passengers — at the state’s second-largest airport, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill, jumped for the sixth consecutive year to a record 725,284. That’s an increase of 3.66% from the previous record total of 699,487 in 2016.
After staying below the 1 million mark for two years, enplanements at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock rose to 1.01 million in 2017. That’s up 2.02% compared to 996,897 in 2016.
Fort Smith Regional Airport enplanements were up for the second straight year. They totaled 89,582 in 2017, up 2.4% from 87,488 in 2016.
Link here for a PDF of the January 2018 Arkansas Transportation Report.