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.
A sharp decline in barge activity on the Arkansas River showed signs of leveling off through March.
According to information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, traffic on the Arkansas River (McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System) through the first three months of the year totaled 2,692,329 tons. That’s down 17% from 3,246,499 tons from the same period of 2017, and reflects the same decline through the first two months of the year.
The combined three-month total of 2,692,329 tons is the lowest YTD mark in the past eight years, encompassing the available historical data online from the Corps of Engineers. The decline in barge activity was caused by high levels on the Arkansas River, brought on by heavy rainfall.
FREIGHT CAPACITY TIGHT
The most recent data from the Cass Freight Shipments and Expenditures Index signals 2018 will be an extraordinarily strong year for transportation and the economy.
March shipments came in at 11.9% higher compared to the same month of 2017. Freight expenditures, the total amount spent on freight, rose 15.6% over the year-ago period of March 2017.
The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage dropped 1.1% in March, the second consecutive month showing a decline. ATA revised the February decline from the originally reported 2.6% to 0.8%.
Compared with March 2017, the index jumped 6.3%, which was below February’s 7.7% year-over-year gain, but still well but still well above 2017’s annual increase of 3.8%
RAIL TRAFFIC UP 5%
Total U.S. railroad traffic in March was 1.05 million carloads, up 3.6% from March 2017, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Intermodal units (containers and trailers) in March totaled 1.08 million units, up 6.5% from the same month last year. Combined there were 2.12 million U.S. carload and intermodal originations in March, up 5% from March 2017.
Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending April 21 was 539,425 carloads and intermodal units, up 6.2% compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the period were 264,552 carloads, up 3.5% compared to the same week in 2017, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 274,873 containers and trailers, up 8.9% compared to last year.
MARCH ENPLANEMENTS DOWN
Thanks to March declines, traffic trended downward at all three of the state’s largest commercial airports through the first three months of 2018.
Enplanements — or outbound passengers — at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock totaled 218,376 through March, a dip of 1.3% from the same three-month period last year. March enplanements were 83,929, also down 1.3% from March 2017.
Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill saw 160,762 enplanements through the first three months, up less than 1% compared to the same three months in 2017. YTD enplanements at the airport were up 3.5% through February.
March enplanements at XNA were off 3.36% from 60,186 last year to 58,164 this year.
January-March enplanements at Fort Smith Regional Airport totaled 19,171 through the first three months, down more than 5% from 20,236 in the same period last year. March enplanements were down 8.1%.
Click here for a PDF of the April 2018 Arkansas Transportation Report