Vital Christmas deliveries to stores could be compromised over the festive season due to a “chronic lack” of truck drivers.

The industry is short of almost 50,000 drivers, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), which issued the stark warning.

It is blaming the government for the shortfall, which it claims is due in part to the prohibitive cost of a truck licence.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The situation is getting worse. Thousands of older drivers are leaving the industry and younger people can’t afford the £3,000 it costs to get a truck licence. The government could help, but won’t. It should support a truck driving apprenticeship, but is refusing to do so, even though it is forcing the larger trucking firms to pay the new apprenticeship levy. What young person can find £3,000 without some help? This shortage is grave and presents a real threat to Christmas and to economic growth.”

Nisa head of logistics Lee Vickers said he understood the RHA’s concerns. “Although the industry is struggling in this area, we have been planning around this with the warehouse-to-wheels process for over a year. This does mean internal investment, but it creates a calibre of drivers who love working for Nisa/DHL, and know the business in great detail. Christmas planning is all about preparation and we’ve covered the shifts we need well in advance,” he added.

Nisa is “actively working” to develop new sources of drivers by investing in training its warehouse colleagues to gain their LGV licences.

The RHA claims the driver shortage will hit 60,000 in the next 12 months if the situation is not urgently addressed.