The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) reported that its preliminary advanced seasonally adjusted December For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index recorded a 0.6% increase, giving the Index its best yearly performance since 1998.

The December increase followed a 4.7% increase in November and capped a year in which the benchmark jumped 6.2%.

November’s increase was significantly larger than the preliminary gain of 2.7% ATA reported on December 20, 2013. In December, the index equaled 131.7 (2000=100) versus 130.9 in November. December’s level is a record high. Compared with December 2012, the SA index increased 8.2%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 123.0 in December, which was 1.4% below the previous month (124.8).

“Tonnage ended 2013 on a high note, which fits with many economic indicators as trucking is an excellent reflection of the tangible goods economy,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “The final quarter was the strongest we’ve seen in a couple of years, rising 2.2% from the third quarter and 9.1% from a year earlier.” 

The tonnage acceleration in the second half of 2013 continues to point toward a growing economy, Costello said. 

“I’m seeing more broad-based gains now. The improvement is not limited to the tank truck and flatbed sectors like earlier in the year,” he said. “With manufacturing and consumer spending picking up, coupled with solid volumes from hydraulic fracturing, I look for tonnage to be good in 2014 as well.”

 ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s.