The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 1.2% in May from April, rising after a one-month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Freight Transportation Services Index.

The May 2013 index level (114.3) was 20.6% above the April 2009 low during the most recent recession.

The level of freight shipments in May was only 0.8% shy of matching the all-time high level of 115.2 in December 2011. (TSI records begin in 2000.)

The April index was revised to 112.9 from 112.4 in the previous release. Monthly numbers for each month from December through March were also revised, showing slightly higher index levels.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation in tons and ton-miles, which are combined into one index. The index measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight.

The May increase in freight transportation was driven by growth in in shipments by truck and rail accompanying broader signs of strength in the general economy. Housing starts grew particularly fast in May, up 6.8% from April, which would be important for the Freight TSI since heavy construction materials produce growth in freight tonnage.

With the May increase to 114.3, the index has exceeded its 2012 range for five months in a row. In May, the Freight TSI reached its highest 2013 level and its second highest all-time level. The May level was exceeded only by December 2011 and equal to the January 2005 level before the recession. After dipping to 94.8 in April 2009, the index rose 20.6% in the succeeding 49 months.