How to buy … Glass

Published in Fleet World, July 2010 

Broken windscreens are an annoying fact of a fleet manager’s life but they have to be handled professionally and cost-effectively just like every other aspect of fleet management. Which raises the question – what is best practice in this area?

A large number of companies specialise in repairing and replacing car windscreens, though three companies make up about 75% of the market, so if you have a broken windscreen there’s a good chance you will end up dealing with one of these.

If you lease your cars you will find that your leasing company has a preferred glass supplier. When your cars are delivered the leasing company will usually provide this information to your drivers, either in a driver handbook or via a sticker inside the car.

Alternatively, your insurer will direct you to a particular supplier, perhaps when you phone up to report the damage.

Another option is to establish a direct relationship with a glass supplier.  If you have a fair size fleet it’s definitely worthwhile exploring this idea. There are significant discounts available to bulk-buyers, and if you have a big fleet you can arrange for the supplier to provide you with periodic (or online) reports to help you manage the work that has been done.

The normal procedure with glass damage is that you call the supplier, quote your car registration number and tell them what the problem is (a minor crack or more major damage). They will tell you how they can help you. They may not need to replace a damaged windscreen. Depending on which window has been damaged, the size of the damage, whether it is in the driver’s line of vision and the distance of the damage from the edge of the windscreen, it is possible for it to be repaired rather than replaced. A repair can be done for at the fraction of the cost of a new windscreen, and most insurers won’t charge an excess or impose a loss of no claims discount. It’s also an low-waste environmentally-friendly solution, and takes far less time than replacing a windscreen.

Whatever work is required, you can normally choose to have the work done by a mobile unit that comes to you, or at the supplier’s fitting centre. For most fleets the mobile option is the most convenient.

You don’t have to buy the same make of windscreen that was originally fitted to the car. Several companies manufacture replacement windscreens so shop around, though do ensure you only buy glass showing the British Standard number (BS857) or the European e-Mark.

These are a few things you should check if you decide to establish a direct relationship with a supplier. Do they have the tools and stocks to be able to handle all of your vehicles? Do they operate mobile units, and, if so, can they carry out repairs and replacements when it is raining? What is the normal and maximum time you should expect to have to wait before a mobile unit will arrive to do the work? Do their repairs comply with the BSAU242a code of practice for glass repair? Are they open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year? Are they committed to repairing rather than replacing the glass whenever they can? Are they prepared to sign a service level agreement with you? are they prepared to offer free periodic glass safety checks of all your vehicles, to help you meet your health and safety obligation to your drivers and to spot small chips before they turn into expensive and dangerous cracks?

Professor Colin Tourick






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