FTR Associates' Shippers Conditions Index for September basically remained unchanged from August with a reading of 6.9, indicating stable but slightly tight truck capacity.

Shippers should expect to see a gradual deterioration in shipping conditions as 2012 ends and throughout 2013 as freight demand slowly improves, while impending regulations restrict driver productivity and hence, truck capacity.

As the SCI readings continue to worsen, this is actually good news for the trucking industry, as this means carriers have more leverage to raise rates.

"Shippers continue to enjoy a period of stability and limited increases in trucking rates for the moment," says Larry Gross, senior consultant for FTR. "Uncertainty with regard to the future will continue at high levels until the outcome of ongoing 'fiscal cliff' negotiations becomes clear.

"We are optimistic that the results of these discussions will not inflict great damage to the economy. With the re-election of President Obama, we can expect the current regulatory climate to remain in place. The conditions are therefore set for slow tightening in freight markets as we move through next year."