Over the years, the veteran truck driver has been to the funerals of more than 50 of his colleagues within the industry — which is the deadliest in Australia.
Speaking at the Transport Workers Union (TWU) press conference ahead of the Inquiry into Industrial Deaths today, Mr Waltis said during the 12 months to the end of March 2018, 184 people were killed in 163 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks across the country.
He said something had to be done to address the road death crisis plaguing the industry.
“I’ve been to over 50 funerals. I do not want to go to another one of a person I know,” Mr Waltis said.
“I don’t want to have to go to another family’s home and tell them they’ve lost a loved one.
“We’ve got people going to work that won’t be coming home … it’s not only those guys who actually pass away … you’ve got thousands of people affected.”
Mr Waltis said big companies had to be held accountable, as well as the government, which he said had “blood on its hands”.
“The top of the food chain has to be held responsible. They’re the ones who set the ridiculous deadlines,” he said.
He said truck drivers were battling against fatigue, the pressures to meet deadlines and crashes due to mechanical faults and that legislation was needed urgently.
TWU acting national secretary Michael Kaine told the Senate Education and Employment References Committee that there was a direct link between the increase in deaths and the pressure transport operators and drivers were put under by major industry clients in a bid to lower costs.
“People are being slaughtered on our roads in the name of corporate greed. We need tougher laws and stronger enforcement, but they’ll only work if the enforcement begins at the source of the problem and holds every corporation in supply chains to account,” he said.
“The Federal Government cannot continue to protect big business at the expense of safety on our roads.”
According to Mr Kaine, more transport workers are killed on the job in Australia than in any other industry — and deaths involving truck crashes are on the rise.
He said in April 2016, the government shut down a watchdog which had been investigating safety in trucking and holding big companies to account — and that 388 people had died in trucking accidents since the body was dismantled.
The inquiry will also hear from various experts and representatives from other industries, including health and manufacturing.