Arkansas River traffic surges in April, tops 1 million tons

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 182 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.

For the first time in 2018, monthly barge activity on the Arkan­sas River topped 1 million tons.

According to information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers, traffic on the Arkansas River (McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System) in April totaled 1,188,147 tons. That’s the highest monthly total of the year, and a 25% jump from 951,934 tons shipped in March. The April total is also a 41.2% increase from 840,871 tons in April 2017.

The year-to-date total of barge activity through April stood at 3,880,476 tons, down 5% from the same period of 2017. Though down slightly from last year, the total still reflects an activity level that continues to recover from a sluggish start to the year. The combined three-month total of 2,692,329 tons through April was down 17% from the same period in 2017. It also represented 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
According to the Cass-Freight Shipments and Expenditures Index, April shipments came in at 10.2% higher compared with the same month of 2017. Freight expenditures, the total amount spent on freight, rose 12.8% over the year-ago period of April 2017.

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

RAIL TRAFFIC UP IN APRIL
Total U.S. railroad traffic in April was 1.05 million carloads, up 3.3% from April 2017, according to the Association of Amer­ican Railroads (AAR). Intermodal units (containers and trail­ers) in April totaled 1.09 million units, up 6.8% from the same month last year. Combined there were 2.15 million U.S. carload and intermodal originations in April, up 5.1% from April 2017.

Total U.S. carload traffic for the first four months of 2018 was 4.34 million carloads, up 0.6% from the same period last year; and 4.59 million intermodal units, up 5.8% from last year.

ENPLANEMENTS BOUNCE BACK
After showing slight declines in March, traffic at the state’s three largest commercial airports bounced back in April.

Enplanements — or outbound passengers — at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill were up 6.37% in April, from 57,146 last year to 60,788 this year. Year-to-date en­planements are also up 2.36% through the first four months, from 216,482 last year to 221,587 this year.

Enplanements at the state’s largest airport, Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, totaled 86,886 in April, up 6.72% from April 2017. Year-to-date enplanements are up 0.86% through the first four months, from 302,656 last year to 305,262 this year.

April enplanements at Fort Smith Regional Airport totaled 7,031, up 3.74% from 6,777 in the same month last year. Janu­ary-April enplanements at the airport totaled 26,202, down 3% from the same period last year.

Click here for a PDF of the May 2018 Arkansas Transportation Report

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