Trucking tonnage was up in 2011 and trucking officials are predicting another year of growth in 2012, especially as the economy continues to show signs of improvement.

During 2011 commercial truck tonnage increased 5.9 percent when compared to 2010 and posted the largest annual increase in more than 13 years. 2011 ended on an especially high note as November showed an increase of 6.1 percent compared the same month the year before, and December was 10 percent higher, according to the ATA’s tonnage index.

“While I’m not surprised that tonnage increased in December, I am surprised at the magnitude of the gain,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a press released about the recently released tonnage figures. “Not only did truck tonnage increase due to solid manufacturing output in December, but also from some likely inventory restocking. Inventories, especially at the retail level, are exceedingly lean, and I suspect that tonnage was higher than expected as the supply chain did some restocking during the month.” he said.

ATA’s tonnage index is compiled by asking its membership the amount of tonnage each carrier hauled, including all types of freight. According to the ATA website, “The indexes are calculated based on those responses. The sample includes an array of trucking companies, ranging from small fleets to multi-billion dollar carriers. When a company in the sample fails, we include its final month of operation and zero it out for the following month, with the assumption that the remaining carriers pick up that freight. As a result, it is close to a net wash and does not end up in a false increase. Nevertheless, some carriers are picking up freight from failures and it may have boosted the index.”

Because trucking represents nearly 70 percent of the tonnage carried by all modes of domestic transportation, the tonnage figures often serve as an indicator of the economy as a whole and can be an early sign of much larger growth, according to ATA.

Economists and trucking officials predicted 2011 would be a good year for the industry but many were surprised at just how good it was. While many other sectors of the economy are just now beginning to show signs of growth since the 2008 recession, the commercial trucking industry is well on its way to a full recovery and even more growth. Trucking officials have also reported that the commercial truck industry is showing signs of growth in 2012 and that means thousands of new drivers will be needed in the coming months and years.

If you are a job seeker looking to take advantage of this growing sector and have an interest in becoming a professional truck driver then the CDL training program at the Diesel Driving Academy is one of the best places to start.