TRIBUTE: Dane Ballinger a champion of the industry
THE Australian trucking industry lost a true gentleman on September 4 with the passing of Dane Ballinger, aged 36.
A Bathurst boy, born and bred, Dane was well known across the industry through working in many different types of heavy haulage, carting everything from mining equipment to powder tankers.
With one of the neatest fleets on the road today, Dane and the Ballinger Transport crew were regulars at truck shows all over the country.
It was a rare occasion that Dane didn't bring home at least one trophy, he was even one of the driving forces behind his local Bathurst Truck Show.
From a young age, Dane was bound to get into the trucking game, but even Dane himself could not have foreseen the success and admiration that was to come.
Peter Dawson, one of Dane's early mentors, told us that as a youngster he would ride his pushbike up to his truck yard after school.
"If I wasn't there Dane would call me and tell me which trailer was missing a mudflap, or which truck had been parked incorrectly," recalled Peter.
"From there Dane started out by helping to wash trucks, then graduated to riding along on the night run down to Sydney with me. By the time Dane was 16 he was more than capable of moving trucks and trailers around the yard, so we put him on a traineeship."
His first truck was an Isuzu FVR900, from there he moved onto an International T-Line, and left Dawson's Removals to purchase a Kenworth to go run powder tankers.
Dane came back as a subbie in 2004 but was soon promoted as Peter's right-hand man.
"To me, Dane was a business partner, a mate and a son to me. Not many in the industry could back up a B-double like he could, and during his time driving there is nothing that he hadn't carried.
"Dane was opinionated and strong willed, for example he would always have the straps go through the rails. It was irrelevant that the straps would wear, Dane just thought it looked better, and that he can always buy more straps."
The condition of the trucks in the Ballinger Transport fleet is well known on the road, with every rig seemingly in truck show condition no matter where it was.
With Klos customising the rigs as Dane added them to the fleet, the amount of time and effort that went into keeping each rig in showroom condition is impressive. Dane's Kenworth T908 took out the highly sought after Rig of the Show at the Casino Truck Show at the beginning of August.
The big 908 is a high miler though, with Dane racking up 1.4m kilometres in the first truck in the Ballinger fleet, a credit to the man and his drivers for knowing how to keep a rig looking brand new.
Born in Bathurst and proud of the fact, Dane's tautliner trailers featured advertising for the central west town, the place that gave him a start in trucking.
Dane was part of the push to start up the Bathurst Truck Show again, a decade after it had last been held.
The shows have been a major success, with over 100 trucks attending each show since its inception in its new guise.
This year the show will not have Dane to push for a better event, but his spirit will be there.
The loss of Dane Ballinger has had a profound effect on the trucking industry, with folks all over the country reeling at the loss of one of the true gentleman of the road.
Dane was humble, a team player and an inspiration for so many.
Many had a chance to chat with Dane at a truck show, and in that time you had his attention he would be listening to you, and he felt like an old mate, even though you only just met him.
I was lucky enough to call Dane my mate, and I know how his passing has torn a massive hole in so many people's lives. He is survived by his wife Danielle, and four beautiful kids.
There is little consolation in the fact he is gone except I do know this: Dane would not have wanted anyone to slow down or stop what they were doing on his behalf, if anything Dane would have wanted us to try harder, to aim higher, to park that truck correctly.
Respected by many, a real champion of the industry, and an all-round good bloke, he will be sorely missed.