Private equity has shifted much of the legal liability of truck operation onto the driver. Private equity has accomplished this through lobbying the CMSA for expanded safety protocols that put all blame upon the driver and relieve the private equity ownership of liability. Both the private equity ownership and government can claim the public is safer. Its devious and well played on both their parts, because the accident lawyers (who are powerful politically as well) are still in business but are only able to strip the assets off drivers, not the private equity owned trucking companies. The federal government has added paperwork and requirements of drivers, hours of service regulations that when broken can trigger fines of thousands of dollars. So the federal government has opened up a new cash stream off the truck driver.
The DOT has set up a points system with an account on each individual driver. These points accumulate as a result of citations and accidents and upon reaching a certain level cause the driver to be stripped of his CDL. Insurance companies also check a driver's points and may choose not to insure him. Because of the severe government oversight in trucking and frequent inspections, it is inevitable that a driver will get stuck with a bad trailer (1 in 5 trailers I pick up have a citable problem) and begin to have points added to his record.
At a certain point the driver will be done, out of the game. But this also serves the private equity spreadsheet men. For the elimination of older, experienced truckers who's wages have slowly risen by a penny a mile over a long period means they can be replaced with young, new drivers with clean records and, importantly for the spreadsheet, hired at the lowest per mile wage. As a result, trucking companies are always looking for new hires fresh out of trucking school.
In addition, there are the heavy punishments meted out by courts in recent cases involving truck accidents. One Florida driver was found to have been on his cell phone for 20 minutes during his DOT mandated 8 hour uninterrupted sleep in his sleeper berth. The judge and jury concluded this was evidence of negligence in an accident that killed 7 children on a school bus. The judge wanted to give him 7 years prison time for each of the 7 dead children. So the judicial system, district attorneys, and the public also get their piece of the truck driver, a person who they clearly view as not simply a public menace but a likely moral degenerate.
If wages had increased commensurate to the risks of fines and imprisonment (as well as because of government limits on drive time and introduction of paperwork) then a positive risk/reward for trucking might be argued. But since the Teamsters and other unions were broken, wages have stagnated despite drivers spending more time doing unpaid paperwork and being forced not to drive due to HOS limits.
It should be noted that mileage pay is also based off the distance between two cities as the crow flies, which, naturally, is much shorter than a truck route. Any driving done inside a city qualifies as 0 mileage. Additionally, the company has a policy that job assignments cannot be turned down. I recently had 2 trips with 2 two hour live loads (unpaid time) within Portland, which being within the city meant my miles driven was calculated at 0. That day I assumed the risks of fines and imprisonment in exchange for $0.
I did some calculations based upon my work totals, which I broadly define as anything involved in the operation of the truck, meaning paperwork, ETA calculations, pre/post trips, hooking and unhooking trailers, live on/off loads, etc. Around 3-5 hours of my day I do things necessary to performing the job which are not actually driving, which means I am unpaid for those activities. A gross pay versus total hours worked leaves my effective hourly wages at under $10/hour, and this is, of course, working 7 days a week with total worked hours well over overtime. But as pay is calculated per mile there is no overtime for truck drivers. It is a crummy job, worse than a minimum wage job, and there is a constant risk of fines and prison time.