Arkansas River traffic through February lowest since 2011

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 229 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.

High levels on the Arkansas River brought on by heavy rainfall early in the year has caused a decline in barge activity.

According to information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers, traffic in February on the Arkansas River (McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System) totaled 849,624 tons.

That’s down 4.8% from January, and a 17% drop through the first two months, compared to the same two-month period of 2017.

The combined two-month total of 1,740,395 tons is the lowest YTD mark in the past eight years, encompassing the available his­torical data online from the Corps of Engineers.

“The early months of 2018 saw several high water events on the Arkansas River which had an impact on overall tonnage,” said Bry­an Day, executive director of the Little Rock Port Authority. “Sev­eral barge loads of commodities were unable to move up the river until the water levels dropped. We remain optimistic that by the end of this year, tonnage will rebound and we should see strong consistent movement of the various commodities that use the river.”

Freight continues to grow at such a pace that capacity in most modes has become extraordinarily tight, according to the latest Cass Freight Shipments and Expenditures Index.

February shipments came in at 11.4% higher compared to the same month of 2017. Freight expenditures, the total amount spent on freight, rose 14.3% over the year-ago period of Febru­ary 2017.

According to Donald Broughton, a chief market strategist and senior transportation analyst with Avondale Partners, who pro­vides economic analysis for the Cass Freight Index, pricing power has erupted to levels that spark overall inflationary con­cerns in the broader economy.

Total U.S. railroad traffic in February was 1.02 million car­loads, down 0.3% from February 2017, according to the Associ­ation of American Railroads (AAR). Intermodal units (contain­ers and trailers) in February totaled 1.10 million, up 6.9% from the same month last year. Combined there were 2.13 million U.S. carload and intermodal originations in February, up 3.3% from February 2017.

Total U.S. weekly traffic for the week ending March 24 was 526,521 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.4% compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the period were 265,756 carloads, up 2.5% compared to the same week in 2017, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 260,765 containers and trailers, up 0.3% compared to last year.

Through the first two months of the year, traffic is down at two of the state’s three largest commercial airports.

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill, on the heels of a record-setting 2017, is ahead of that pace through February, with 102,598 enplanements—or outbound passengers. That’s up 3.48% from 99,150 in the January-February period last year.

Enplanements at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock totaled 134,447, a dip of 1.3% from the same two months last year. February enplanements were 65,862, off slight­ly from 66,469 in February 2017.

January-February enplanements at Fort Smith Regional Air­port totaled 12,257, down 3.54% from 12,708 in January-Febru­ary 2017. February enplanements were at 6,041, down from 6,317 last year.

Click here for a PDF of the March 2018 Arkansas Transportation Report.