My Craziest Load: Under Pressure

On its face, the job sounded simple enough: pick up a load in Hermiston, OR and deliver it to a strict, on-time receiver in Cleburne, TX. But when Chad Boblett looked at the bill of lading, he saw a note that changed the game entirely: under no circumstances was the load to be driven above 6,000 feet in elevation.  

Given this strict boundary, you’d be justified in wondering what sort of mysterious and sensitive cargo Boblett was being hired to transport. Hazardous waste? Sensitive machinery? Classified military weaponry? Good guesses, but no.  

It was potato chips. 

Thousands of bags of potato chips. Wavy ones. Puffy ones. Triangular ones. Each individual bag was pressurized in such a way that carrying them above 6,000 feet would set off a chain reaction of pops and pows so fierce that Boblett would likely arrive in Cleburne with a truckload of exploded bags and pulverized potato chips. 

Now Entering the Pop Zone 

As if the sensitivity of the cargo weren’t concerning enough, Boblett also had serious uncertainty about his route. If you draw a straight line on a map from Oregon to Texas you see an enormous obstacle in the middle: the Rocky Mountains. To get to Texas, Boblett needed to drive through Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado—where the elevation rises more than 14,000 feet above sea level. The projected outcome here is rather obvious: catastrophe. You can almost picture Boblett arriving in Texas, opening the truck’s cargo doors, and being enveloped in a cloud of orange cheese puff dust.  

Fearing the worst, Boblett called the broker to register his concerns about the viability of the load. But the broker assured Boblett that the cold weather in the Rockies would keep the bags from popping (even at an elevation more than double the stated limit). Still, not entirely convinced, Boblett devised a simple plan: he would keep one bag of chips on the passenger seat. If it popped, he’d know he was in trouble.  

“The elevation kept getting higher, and soon I passed the dreaded 6,000-foot elevation mark,” Boblett recalls. “At the top of every mountain, I squeezed the bags of chips on my passenger seat to see if they were still holding pressure.”  

Complicating Boblett’s already challenging mission was the arrival of one of the worst October snowstorms on record. When his primary route had to be closed because of a pileup caused by the storm’s severity, Boblett backtracked and took an alternate lane—a harrowing alternate route littered with jackknifed trucks and driving snow so relentless that his windshield wipers could barely keep up. 

Talk about white-knuckling it. Imagine driving through a blinding snowstorm while carrying a load that could literally explode at any second. Some say calling truck drivers “heroic” is an overstatement; we disagree.  

Finally, after four treacherous days on the road, Boblett arrived in Cleburne and delivered his load on time and fully intact. Not a single bag had popped. 

“As I headed out the gate,” Boblett says, “I grabbed the bag of cheese puffs from the passenger seat and smiled for the first time in days.” 

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Do you have a story you’d like to share about a funny, challenging or unusual load you’ve carried? We’d love to share it with the DAT trucker audience on My Craziest Load. Send us a brief description of your story at [email protected].