Truckload pricing increased 1 percent year-over-year in August and remained flat compared with July, according to the Cass Truckload Linehaul Index.
The year-over-year gap in the growth of truckload rates tracked by the index collapsed in 2012, falling from 8.2 percent in February to 2.1 percent in July.
The truckload pricing index, which uses January 2005 as its base month, was stable at a reading of 109.5 in July and August, Cass Information Systems said.
Truckload rates aren't dropping, but they may be hitting a demand ceiling in 2012 after increasing rapidly from 2010 through 2011 from recessionary lows.
The slowing pace of year-over-year rate increases also may reflect a shift of more truckload freight to intermodal rail, the freight payment company said.
While truckload rates were flat on a sequential monthly basis, intermodal rates climbed 1.3 percent from July to August, but were flat from a year ago.
The Cass Intermodal Linehaul Index, which also uses January 2005 as its base, dropped from 104.5 in April to 99.6 in July, and then climbed to 100.9 in August.
Some of that increase may reflect higher over-the-road diesel prices, Cass said. Truckload carriers also may be keeping a lid on rates to keep freight on highways.
Low to flat rate increases also reflect a slowing economy. U.S. GDP dropped from 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 1.7 percent in the second quarter of 2012.
Unless demand drops precipitously, which is unlikely absent a new recession or other economic shock, slower pricing growth is likely to translate to tighter truckload capacity.
That in turn could push more freight to intermodal rail, affecting pricing in that mode.