A composite-frame platform using carbon fibers in an epoxy resin mix is going into production following five years of development and testing.
Reitnouer Inc of Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the largest manufacturers of all-aluminum platform trailers, will produce the composite platform.
The backbone of the design is a pair of 27" deep main frame beams, an inch deeper than those used on the company's aluminum platform trailer. The camber will be about the same at 4½". However, the composite frame will be trapezoidal — 12" wide at the top and 5" wide at the bottom. The depth of the beam narrows down to 11¼" at the upper coupler.
One of the advantages of composites is that the thickness of the flanges can be varied along the length to accommodate varying stresses. It also can be made short and thick as needed above the upper coupler or tall and slender where beam depth is appropriate. The center of the main beams will be filled with balsa wood in the middle of the trailer.
Crossmembers also will be molded of carbon fibers and epoxy resin, but the deck will be hollow-core aluminum extrusions. The rear bumper and underride guard will also be of bolted aluminum. The only steel will be in the spring hangers, running gear, landing gear, and fifthwheel plate and coupler.
The primary advantage of the composite design is weight reduction. The pre-production model exhibited at the Mid-America Trucking Show weighed 7,800 pounds. A 96-in × 48-ft production model will weigh about 7,400 pounds, according to Bud Reitnouer, president. Rated at 100,000 pounds distributed load, it will carry a 60,000-lb load concentrated in four feet or a 70,000-lb load concentrated over 10 feet. The price is estimated to be $5,000-$7,000 more than a comparable aluminum platform.