U.S. freight shipments hit an all-time high in December, rising 3.9 percent from the previous month, the largest monthly increase in domestic freight shipping in 17 years, the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics said Wednesday.
It was the strongest month-to-month increase of the year for the BTS Freight Transportation Services Index, which climbed only 0.1 percent in November from October. December’s growth rate topped a 2.5 percent increase in June.
For 2011, the freight index rose 6.4 percent, the highest full-year growth rate since 2002 and the third consecutive year of increased shipping activity by truck, railroad, airline, waterway and pipeline, the Department of Transportation agency said.
The December 2011 index level surpassed the previous high set in January 2005, close to the apex of the last economic recovery cycle. The TSI also rose 3.7 percent in the fourth quarter, the second straight quarterly increase for the index.
The BTS freight volume index surpassed the Cass Freight Index for December, which was even with November and inched up only 0.7 percent year over year. The Cass index covers truck freight shipments, a subset of the BTS freight data.
Both measurements, however, signaled steadier U.S. freight demand. According to the BTS, freight shipments increased in 22 of the last 32 months, rising 20.6 percent during that period after dropping to a recession-era low point in April 2009.