Fears that the trucking industry and the overall economy are hitting a soft patch during the second quarter may be eased a bit following a new report showing truck tonnage in May increased 2.3% from April, turning in a stellar performance

The figure is from The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index, following an earlier reported 0.2% decline in April form the month before.

It says May performance of 126 is the highest level on record, surpassing the previous high of 124.3 in December 2011. Compared with May 2012, the seasonally adjusted index surged 6.7%, which is the largest year-over-year gain since December 2011. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2012, the tonnage index is up 4.5%.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 132.7 in May, which was 5.4% above the previous month at 125.9.

“After bouncing around in a fairly tight band during the previous three months, tonnage skyrocketed in May,” sad ATA chief economist Bob Costello said. “Some of the increase is attributable to factory output rising in May for the first time since February and retail sales performing stronger than expected in May. “The 6.8% surge in new housing starts during May obviously pushed tonnage up as home construction generates a significant amount of truck tonnage.”

“While we heard good reports regarding freight levels during May, I have to admit I am a little surprised at the large gain in tonnage,” he said. Costello noted tonnage continues to outpace the number of loads hauled as heavy freight, such as housing construction materials and sand and water for hydraulic fracturing, is outperforming box trailer freight.