1.8 Million in Cigarettes

Team truck drivers in front of traffic cones and their truck

Story by Gina P.

On February 1st, 2004 my husband and I headed to Columbus, Ohio, for my first trip over-the-road trucking. I was picking up 1.8 million dollars’ worth of cigarettes, which needed to be in Aurora, Colorado in the next 24 hours.  Because this load had a high possibility of being hijacked due to the value, we would need a police escort for the first 50 miles!

Starting Off as a Truck Driver

Old photo of a truck with headlights
Gina’s truck on a cloudy day.

It was a live load, which means I was backed into a dock door and loaded by a live person with a fork truck.

While I was being loaded, I had to stay in the truck until I was given the green light. Then I went inside to get my paperwork while someone came out and put the padlock on the trailer doors.

They were taking security seriously. We were shown the way out with the police escort behind us, and we were off to Colorado!

This first over-the-road trucking adventure was exciting and new. I would have never imagined I’d be carrying such an expensive load with police cars in tow. But the experience was nerve wracking as well! There was a lot of pressure that came along with a load of this value, especially because both my husband and I were new drivers.

Life as Team Drivers

Driving a 53-foot, 80,000 pound vehicle loaded with a million dollars’ worth of goods can get stressful. We had to stop every 200 miles to thump the tires and check the pressure. The only time we could stop on the 1,232 mile trip was for fuel and to check the tires.

Shadow of a truck on an overpass
Gina’s view from the road.

Because my husband and I were teaming this delivery, we would drive our ten hours allowed by the DOT, and then we’d switch drivers.

We could work, get fuel, eat, and have restroom breaks within the 14-hour rule. At that time, the rule was that we could only drive 10 hours at a time, but it has since changed to allow 11 hours of driving with 14 hours on-duty and 34 hours off.

On our first delivery, we followed the advice we were given: As an over-the-road trucker, you should always carry towels, shower shoes, bottled water, and canned food.

You should also have a plate warmer; most trucks have mini refrigerators. We had a potty bucket, so we didn’t have to always stop, and we made sure to dispose of it in proper places when we did stop.


22 hours after we left, we arrived in Aurora, Co. – the destination. We had a hard time trying to back into the small area off the busy road because it had a curve and a speed bump. All in all, we did it safe and sound, and what a PROUD moment that was. After, we headed to the TA (TravelCenters of America) in Denver, had a hot meal, spent the night in the truck, and waited for our next dispatch.

Old photo of female truck driver standing in front of her truck
Gina’s first delivery was a success.


About The Author
Contributors: Gina Petelle (Truck driver for 15+ years), Alli Hartmann (Experienced writer for 5+ years for a variety of industries, including transportation)