The research work presented in this paper aims at investigating the benefits and practicality of implementing lightweight composite materials and design concepts in heavy trailer systems. The overall purpose is to devise innovative, lightweight design and joining concepts for heavy vehicle structures. A 1 to 4 scaled model representation of a trailer was built to assess the feasibility of creating a trailer from fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite materials and therefore using innovative bonding methods to join the design parts. This portion of work focused on using the process of designing and fabricating the model to have first hand knowledge and experience on possible bonding methods and the types of materials and structures that will optimize strength and weight saving characteristics. Current trailer configurations were studied and shown to have high weight sources in the flooring structure. The process of analyzing innovative bonding methods and the implementation of composite sandwich technology created an alternative lightweight structure to replace heavy flooring constituents of trailer hauls. Finite element modeling and experimental analysis reveal that sandwich technology with a core structure that adds flexural stiffness to the overall design and is aided by an FRP faceplate that geometrically matches the core structure provides solutions to decrease heavy vehicle system weight.

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