Despite a sales falloff of nearly 50% in the North American trailer market, a subsidiary of defense contractor Martin Marietta is moving forward with plans to introduce a new trailer to the trucking industry. Raleigh, NC-based Martin Marietta Materials has entered into a licensing agreement with Composittrailer n.v. of Lokeren, Belgium, to manufacture and market commercial truck trailers in North America. Under the agreement, Martin Marietta will produce trailers using Composittrailer's patented, fiber-reinforced all-composite chassis technology. Initially, trailers will be manufactured at the Composittrailer factory in Belgium, but Martin Marietta plans to relocated manufacturing to the U.S. within one to two years.The introductory product will be an open-top trailer with a composite slat conveyor floor for the waste, agriculture and wood chip markets. Later products include flatbed and refrigerated trailers, the company said. Martin Marietta expects to complete closed track testing of its new trailers this fall and plans to accept orders for trailers in early 2003.Martin Marietta said the trailers will be made of fiber-reinforced composites, made of continuous glass or carbon fabrics in a polymer resin, which have high strength and durability, but lower weight than steel and better corrosion resistance. Commercial truck trailers made of these composite materials are significantly lighter than aluminum trailers, enabling higher cargo loads, therefore, reducing freight costs by 5% to 15%, the company said.Martin Marietta chairman & CEO Stephen Zelnak Jr. said the American transportation industry is just beginning to consider the use of composites to reduce costs and increase the serviceable life of trailers. His company's initial focus will be in the live-floor trailer market with $300 million in annual sales. However, he estimates the potential size of the composite truck trailer market in the United States to be $2.5 billion to $3 billion in annual sales, with the total truck trailer market at approximately $5 billion annually.