A shortfall of lorry drivers in the UK economy could put deliveries over the festive period at risk, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA).
The organisation, which represents more than 8,000 haulage companies, says the shortage is due to the fact that too few young people can afford to get a licence to drive lorries.
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the RHA, said: "We are short of between 45,000 and 50,000 drivers and 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.
"They should support a truck-driving apprenticeship but are refusing to do so; even though they are forcing the larger trucking firms to pay the new apprenticeship levy.
"As far as the RHA is concerned, that amounts to little more than just a tax on payroll. 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."
More than 2.2 million people are employed by the road freight industry and its associated warehousing operations, with over 85 per cent of all goods carried into the UK via lorry at some stage in the supply chain.
As part of its first National Lorry Week, the RHA is lobbying MPs and holding a number of events across the UK in order to raise awareness of the shortage problem.
With shoppers increasing online spending in the run-up to Christmas, van delivery drivers are preparing to distribute a record volume of parcels. There are 3.5 million registered vans in the UK and around 40,000 delivery drivers.
Retailers are in competition to offer consumers the fastest or cheapest deliveries.