A global pandemic. A labor shortage. Supply chain challenges and exorbitant gas prices. The struggle is real in the auto glass industry.
At the end of March, Autospecs Glass in Dallas and Houston found it reached its fleet credit limit because of higher gas prices. “We didn’t really think it was going to be a problem,” says Delena Taylor-Young, who handles invoices and ordering. The company began to offer a discount on the quoted insurance price of auto glass replacement to customers who brought their vehicles into the shop to offset the cost of gas. Taylor-Young says the company also implemented a route optimizer to help technicians drive fewer miles to mobile jobs. “That’s something we didn’t really do until the gas prices were really out of control.” She says gas is now $4.50 per gallon in Dallas.
Autospecs owner Dwayne Cobbs opened the business four years ago. He thinks gas prices will come down a little, but, “once summer hits it’s going to shoot right up [again].” His technicians do what they can each day to find the cheapest gas and to fill up company vehicles at certain times when gas is cheapest. “They try to fill up at certain times before [the price] goes up,” he says. “Definitely, too, trying to get more customers in the shops.”
Cobbs says he prays that the high gas prices are a temporary problem. He has five technicians in Dallas and two in Houston, and he is looking for more. “We’re running trucks all day, every day.” He keeps an eye on the cost of gas—and the cost of glass and urethane. “It’s not just a fill up and go,” he says.
In Quebec, Canada, gas was $2.01 per litre two months ago, the equivalent of $6.45 per gallon in the U.S. Now it’s $1.90 per litre. “I have no choice,” says John Zotts, owner of Auto Glass Experts, of charging customers $5 per job for the cost of gas. He instituted a gas surcharge three months ago. Whether glass companies deliver product to his shop or he picks up the glass, “the surcharge is still there. They do not remove it,” he says.
Zotts says the high gas prices in Canada make no sense because the world’s second largest reservoir is in Alberta. He says he does not see costs going down for auto glass but getting worse.
“Everybody’s going to have to make a change because you can’t absorb it,” Kris Griffin says of the high gas prices. Griffin owns and operates Calibrators of the Carolinas based in the Charlotte, N.C., metro area.
Griffin says the auto glass industry absorbed other costs in the last year with the cost of glass and urethane, but with gasoline prices, “something has to give.” He is considering, at least on insurance glass jobs, a service charge of maybe $9.95 to offset the cost of gas per job. “It’s a possibility. It’s either bring it in the shop or $9.95 service charge.”
Third-party administrators will not allow a service charge, he says, but glass distributors have surcharges to offset the price of gas to deliver product. “For those of us who have more fuel-efficient vehicles, it’s not so bad,” Griffin says. His technicians drive pickups with 2.7 V6 engines that get 22-24 miles per gallon. Right now gas is $4.25 a gallon, but diesel is $5 per gallon in his area. “How much further is it going to go, and is it going to kill us?”
Jon Laski, CEO of City Auto Glass, says the company is feeling the high gas prices more so in Florida than Minnesota. “We’re trying to constantly look for the cheapest gas in town,” he says. Gas is $3.89 per gallon in Minnesota and $4.10 per gallon in Florida.
Laski says he thinks gas prices will not decrease before summer. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better. At the end of the day, you have to do what you have to do to service the customer,” Laski says.