And here's a total riff: I wonder if we are seeing here another artifact of deregulation. No, wait--I know that the deregulation of the trucking biz (back in the Carter years) was one of the first and greatest successes of the deregulation revolution. And it's true, I really can't think of any good reason why you should have to have a "certificate of public convenience and necessity" just to load a few crates on the back of a flatbed and hit the road.
Still, my impression is that deregulation did play a prominent, perhaps a decisive, role in changing the character of the industry. When I was a kid in New Hampshire in the 40s, a trucker could make $35 a load round-tripping from Manchester to New York. That was $105 a week if you pressed yourself--not an easy job, but enough to keep the wife and kiddies at home. Over the years, the Teamsters came to play a bigger and bigger role in the drama. And when they weren't looting employee pension funds, my guess is they probably did a good bit to improve wages and working conditions to the point where, by the late 70s, it was actually an almost-comfortable job.
I think what you saw after deregulation was (a) an increase in competition (d'oh!); (b) a decline in union power; and (c) an increase in the owner-operator model. You get the point of owner-operators: the trucker, formerly an employee, now stumps up a couple of hundred thou to buy the cab; he hooks up to the trailer on contract and drives like the devil is chasing him to stay ahead of the bank. Now, that does sound like a tough way to make a living. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they're having trouble finding people who are even capable, forget about willing, to bear the strain.
So the next time some guy hurls an amber-colored plastic bottle at your windshield, have a bit of compassion--he's got troubles, too.