Two vehicle glass trends that will stand out in the fleet industry in 2017 are self-service scheduling and the growing complexity of vehicle glass.

"As vehicles become smarter and more integrated, so too does the glass. The methods drivers can schedule glass service are becoming smarter, as well," said Mark Klein, assistant vice president, strategic accounts for Safelite AutoGlass.

The windshield is a critical safety component of a vehicle, protecting passengers in the event of a rollover and aiding in proper airbag deployment. In the past 10 years alone, the glazed area of cars has increased by 15%. As a result, windshields will continue to play an even greater role in the structural integrity of the vehicle, now accounting for up to 30% of a car's torsional rigidity.

However, the windshield is no longer just an independent part comprised of a vinyl interlayer sandwiched between two pieces of glass. What is changing is that windshields are becoming more technologically integrated with the rest of the vehicle. Technology integration in automotive glass parts has doubled since 2009, a trend that is expected to continue.

As a result, vehicle glass replacement costs are increasing as more technology, such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), are being incorporated into windshields.

Glass service scheduling is becoming smarter. Consumers want to do business online. And not just online. They want to do it on their phones.

Whether it was with a desktop or a phone, have you ever shopped online? If you answered, "yes," you're definitely not alone. In 2016, the percentage of purchases made online surpassed that of store purchases for the first time, according to a study from United Parcel Service (UPS).

And the trend is not unique to purchases. It carries over to the service industries. For example, Accenture — a global professional service company — forecasts that about two in three patients will book medical appointments online by the end of 2019.

Leading vehicle glass companies have experienced this trend, as well. For example, nearly 40% of Safelite AutoGlass' retail customers scheduled their appointment online in 2016. This was up about 10 points from 2015.

"We've witnessed a steady uptick in the demand for self-service, especially among the consumer and insurance segments," said Bruce Millard, vice president of Digital & Customer Innovation for Safelite Group. "While the commercial segment has been lower and relatively flat, we project it to rise significantly with several managed fleet companies adding streamlined self-service functionality in 2017."

Why will more and more fleets adopt online service?

  • Additional option for drivers who prefer not to make a phone call.
  • Speed of scheduling or working at your own pace.
  • Ability to multitask.
  • Convenience of setting up multiple service requests.
  • Faster access to reporting, invoices and service status.

It's important to remember, though, not to view self-service scheduling as a replacement to traditional phone scheduling.

"It's really all about choice. Customers want to have options. There are times when online will be most convenient and others when talking to a live person is best. The leaders in the industry are providing innovative scheduling methods to accommodate personal preference," said Millard.

Of course, your drivers should never attempt to schedule glass service while driving. Drivers are encouraged to pull over — or even better — schedule the appointment at their next stop. Your company should have a strict policy — including a distracted driving pledge — limiting your employees from using smartphones while driving.

Glass Is no Longer Just Glass

Vehicle glass is becoming more complex. It seems impossible to watch a car commercial these days without hearing about safety features such as adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance or lane departure warning.

Part of a larger group of features commonly referred to as ADAS, these safety tools rely upon cameras often located on the windshield. This adds complexity to the windshield manufacturing and installation. Furthermore, most automakers require the ADAS camera systems to be recalibrated after a windshield replacement in order for the equipment to work properly.

How do you know if one of your vehicles has an ADAS windshield? Consider partnering with a vehicle glass provider that helps you identify such vehicles and one that can conduct the recalibration.

But ADAS features are just one of the many ways windshields are becoming more complex.

"In 2016, 27% of all the glass we installed involved one or more complex attributes," said Jessica Bailey, senior corporate buyer for Safelite Group. "The largest group represented was acoustic glass at nearly 20%; however, the fastest-growing categories were lane departure warning and ADAS, up 78% and 74%, respectively."