Arkansas suggests truckers take a break during next year’s solar eclipse

December 21, 2023

Ryan Witkowski


The Arkansas Department of Transportation is making a big ask of truckers when it comes to next year’s total solar eclipse.

In preparation for the April 8 eclipse, with its path of totality projected to run diagonally across Arkansas, the state recently released its 2024 Solar Eclipse Traffic Management Plan.

“Many tourists are expected to travel to view the eclipse, likely making this the largest tourism event in Arkansas history,” the department said in its report. “This Traffic Management Plan is to be used as a guide to help public officials and various agencies prepare for and manage the expected increase in traffic volumes leading up to, during and after the eclipse.”

According to data from ArDOT, roughly 1.5 million people are expected to make the trek from outside the state. Additionally, the department expects about 500,000 in-state residents to travel from their homes to the path of totality.

Needless to say, 2 million people – and an estimated 700,000 additional vehicles – will bring some traffic issues to the state’s roadways.

To curtail some of the possible issues caused by travelers hoping for a glimpse of the solar eclipse, the DOT has made a number of suggestions to ease the impending congestion.

“Forecasted post-eclipse volumes will exceed capacity on many roads, and it is not practical to sufficiently increase roadway capacity for a one-day event,” ArDOT said in its plan. “For these reasons, an important strategy will be to encourage people to reduce travel, particularly on routes of concern.”

A couple of those suggestions include closing schools – a preventative measure some districts already have agreed to – along with encouraging residents to work from home that day. Another suggestion from the DOT is for carriers to take a voluntary “truck holiday” and park their vehicles for the day.

“Severe congestion is expected on the entire Arkansas State Highway System during the eclipse, to such an extent that the day may be mostly unproductive for freight vehicles,” the department said. “ArDOT will engage the Arkansas Trucking Association in an effort to encourage truckers to adjust their travel schedule so they are not trapped on the roadways with eclipse-related traffic.”

The department added that the one-day shutdown and the other traffic mitigation strategies being suggested are entirely voluntary, “with no penalty for those who decide to operate during the eclipse.”

While the suggestion makes sense on the surface, Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said the department is asking too much from truckers.

“I don’t think that it’s a realistic expectation that we’re going to stop interstate commerce for 24 hours,” Newton told KAIT News. “I think there is value in informing members of the industry just so that we can appropriately set expectations.”

The voluntary “holiday” isn’t the DOT’s only suggestion that would impact carriers. The department also is considering limiting “the issuance of oversized permits on the days leading up to and immediately after the eclipse.”

If that part of the plan comes to fruition, the department said it will alert local industry stakeholders “to give them ample time to adjust travel schedules.” LL