Two art shippers are recruiting for drivers who can install priceless works of art around the world.  One seeks drivers with the credentials to drive large goods vehicles. The second invites applications from culturally curious individuals with a passion for travel and a desire to care for some of the world’s most important artistic treasures.  Which is more appealing?

The challenge found by many ICEFAT agents across our industry to recruit more drivers is not a new phenomenon. Even prior to Covid (and in the UK, Brexit), these were not easy roles to fill. Now in a post-pandemic world when so many re-evaluated their priorities, recruiting long haul drivers is harder than ever. Or is it?

How we describe a role or a business needs to inspire the recruit, in this case a potential art logistics technician.  Take the teachings of Simon Sinek as an example. Sinek is a motivational speaker and unshakeable optimist whose TED talk has been viewed over 60 million times.  His mantra is that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Let’s apply this theory to the aforementioned roles.  Is an individual likely to join a business because it is seeking large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers?  Or will they be drawn to a role which offers opportunities for international travel and to care for some of the world’s most precious cultural treasures? 

Dutch shipper, HIZKIA, is one agent that hasn’t experienced recruitment challenges and attributes its success to how career opportunities are perceived. Mieke Mesker, Director of Museums Logistics at HIZKIA says, “we have found that offering positions which combine driving and art handling, rather than separating them, increases the appeal as it makes the job more varied, while also increasing our team’s versatility.” By emphasizing the specialization element and advertising the cultural custodianship responsibilities of the role, recruits see the diversity of responsibilities to be had in a job of art technician-cum-long haul driver.

Adaptation is also key to the solution. At our most recent annual Convention, the panel relating to driver recruitment agreed that it is the responsibility of all agents to deliver professionally enriching training, attractive overtime incentives and extensive well-being programs. In Australia, International Art Services’ salary offerings for drivers and experienced technicians has risen by between 30% to as much as 48% since June 2019.  This is in addition to a culture of plentiful leave, overtime and a generous retirement package alongside varied experience plus personal development and opportunities for promotion.  Others such as US-based Atelier 4 emphasize flexible working hours as well as consideration for personal and family needs.

According to Andrew Faintych, Chief Operating Officer of Atelier 4, the truck driver shortage is mostly down to public perception. “Long-distance driving in the United States has been painted as a bad employment choice in the media,” he says, “and we do not see many younger applicants looking to get into this field.”  Yet if the opportunity was flipped on its head to focus on the trained technician side of the role and the opportunity to work with extraordinary works of art, might the reverse be true?

Nobody is suggesting the solution is that straightforward and that an altered narrative is the silver bullet we’ve all been looking for.  But just maybe the logistics sector can inspire that element of the role more, using its values to attract potential recruits and remember that its logistics teams will be motivated, not by what these companies do, but by why they do it.