Zonar Systems
Fred Fakkema, VP of safety and compliance at Zonar Systems.

Zonar's Fakkema advocates for safer highways

Oct. 13, 2021
As a state trooper for 25 years and captain of the commercial vehicle division for the state of Washington, Fred Fakkema continues to promote a safer highway not just for the trucking industry, but for everyone.

As a young boy, Fred Fakkema, VP of safety and compliance at Zonar Systems, always wanted to be a state trooper. After serving in the U.S. Army for three years, Fakkema saw his dream come true at age 21.

“Law enforcement is not just a job, it is a calling,” Fakkema explained. “Helping people, serving, and protecting was the time of my life. I always get asked about the dangerous things I experienced and sure, there were times I thought it was the end, but those were few and far between. I have as many fun stories as I do scary ones. The experiences make you who you are, and I wanted to do more.”

Fakkema worked his way through the ranks to captain and was promoted to command the Government and Media Relations Division as well as the Commercial Vehicle Division for the Washington State Police, which ended up changing the course of his career

Throughout his time as a state trooper, his experience and leadership was noticed on a national level. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) selected Fakkema to attend the FBI National Academy in a leadership course for law enforcement executives, which just 1% of all law enforcement members attend. 

“It was quite the honor, and I am very proud to have been a part of it,” Fakkema exclaimed. “During the 10-week course, there are many different classes, including law, behavioral science, forensic science, the terrorist mindset, communication, health and fitness, and leadership development.”

At the end of the course, there is a final physical exam called the “Yellow Brick Road,” a 6.1 mile trek with many different obstacles along the way. At the finish line, all graduates receive a yellow brick, which Fakkema proudly displays in his home to this day. 

“After my course at the Academy, I was able to give back, and was an FBINAA Youth Leadership Instructor and Counselor for five years,” Fakkema said. “The FBINAA is a summer course for youth to learn about leadership and LE, and it was so rewarding. I still see some of the graduates; some are in law enforcement, military, and business, so it’s special to see them succeed.”

Twenty years ago, after the events on Sept. 11, the founders of Zonar Systems approached Fakkema at the Washington State Police Commercial Vehicle Division to get law enforcement’s opinion of the Electronic Verified Inspection Report (EVIR), an inspection process for a variety of vehicles and equipment. According to Fakkema, the 20-minute meeting lasted two hours, and a connection was born. Nine years later, the founders reached out again after four Lakewood, Washington police officers were killed in a coffee shop, urging Fakkema to retire from the dangers of law enforcement and work at Zonar instead.

“I spent 25 years in traffic safety, and that is what Zonar was and is all about—making the roadways and vehicles safer through technology,” Fakkema said. “As they say, the rest is history.” 

Fakkema is a member of several industry organizations all with the common goal of promoting safety on the road, such as ATA Safety Policy Committee, ATA Technology & Engineering Policy Committee, ATA Law Enforcement Advisory Board (LEAB), and School Bus Safety Committee—to name a few. 

“The common goals of these committees are regulatory requirements, safety, and how technology can help the carriers and industry,” Fakkema explained. “Zonar wants to be a part of that, to have a voice at the table, and be part of the solutions. By representing Zonar, we have been dedicated to improving the compliance and safety for our customers as well as the industry as a whole and to keep our finger on the pulse of regulatory requirements.”

Fakkema was most recently named vice chairman of the ATA LEAB, which aims to protect truckers while recognizing the importance of protecting the highways.

“My role as vice chair is to support the chair and ATA to bring these two parallel industries together to improve overall public safety and widespread education on our priority issues,” Fakkema said. “Some of the issues include combatting human trafficking, improving commercial motor vehicle safety and security, enhancing access to training for drivers and company safety personnel, and increasing truck parking capacity and ensuring driver safety at rest stops.

“The future of safety is about technology, from the truck to the trailer and all those supporting the entire industry,” Fakkema added. “But with all that technology it still requires the driver’s involvement. Human interaction does not go away, and we need to continue to provide the appropriate training, equipment, and parking to provide a place for drivers to rest.”

As retirement comes nearer, Fakkema reflects on his impact on the industry as well as his overall career. 

“For over 35 years, I have dedicated my adult life and career to the safety and security of all drivers on our nation’s roadways,” he said. “I hope to think that my and Zonar’s dedication to improving the compliance and safety for our customers and the industry has made a difference, for my family and yours. 

“There is always that notion to leave a legacy with your career, but your career does not define youlife and family does,” Fakkema concluded. “To have such a great ride during my career takes support and love, and I have been blessed with amazing mentors, friends, and more importantly, my best friend and wife. As the song says, ‘I thought I was lucky, but I am blessed.’”

About the Author

Catharine Conway | Digital Editor

Catharine Conway previously wrote for FleetOwner with a Master of Science in Publishing degree and more than seven years’ experience in the publishing and editorial industries. Based in Stamford, Conn., she was critical to the coordination of any and all digital content organization and distribution through various FleetOwner and American Trucker channels, including website, newsletters, and social media. 

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