The first all-composite truck trailer has made its way into the North American market.
Martin Marietta Composites Inc., based in Raleigh, N.C., will put the first assembly line in operation for commercial truck trailers by September in a newly leased facility in Sparta, N.C. Officials said the 185,000-square-foot operation will employ about 25. Officials would not disclose the investment.
``The entire trailer will be composite glass fiber,'' said Grant Godwin, vice president and general manager of Martin Marietta Composites. ``We licensed from Belgium and adapted European technology to the U.S. market. It will be total U.S. specifications. We will be doing a broad range of trailers and also looking at structural components for conventional trucks and rail cars.''
Godwin said employees will begin assembling bridge deck components at the site in February as it consolidates all assembly there. The firm made its move into structural composites about six years ago with DuraSpan, its bridge deck system made from fiber-reinforced plastic. Martin Marietta previously had assembled the components in Dayton, Ohio.
The company has worked on 18 bridge projects and officials expect to do a ``significant number'' in the future, Godwin said.
The new plant has the capacity to produce nearly 60,000 square feet of bridge deck annually, plus ``perhaps a couple of thousand commercial truck trailers and other products,'' he said.
The firm, a subsidiary of publicly traded Martin Marietta Materials Inc., formed a licensing agreement with Belgian firm Composittrailer NV in Lokeren, Belgium, for the truck trailer. Creative Pultrusions Inc. of Alum Bank, Pa., will pultrude the components, Godwin said in a Dec. 12 telephone interview.
``We have current capacity to handle the requirements over the next few years,'' said Shane Weyant, vice president of sales and marketing with Creative Pultrusions.
``One nice thing is that it's proven technology in Europe. We're excited. We feel it has a lot of potential.''
Creative Pultrusions anticipates the truck trailer components alone will consume 600,000 pounds of vinyl ester resin in 2004, increasing to 1.2 million pounds in 2005.
Officials said they plan to market the trailer to waste, wood-chip and agricultural industries, with plans to introduce other commercial trailer types during the next several years.
Creative Pultrusions and Martin Marietta began targeting the market for composite bridges in 2000.
Weyant said the companies are looking for other joint opportunities to expand their use of composites, particularly in infrastructure applications.