Freight tonnage hauled by U.S. truckers -- a barometer of economic activity -- rose 5.9% last year, the biggest year-over-year annual gain since 1998.
Monthly truck tonnage jumped 6.8% in December and .3% in November, the American Trucking Assn. reported Tuesday.
Trucking is a good economic indicator because the industry moves 67.2% of all U.S. freight tonnage, about 9 billion tons of goods in 2010, the association said.
"While I'm not surprised that tonnage increased in December, I am surprised at the magnitude of the gain," Bob Costello, the association's chief economist, said. December marked the largest monthly increase since January of 2005.
Costello credited the large December number on "solid manufacturing output" as well as inventory restocking.