The grocery sector is expected to come under more pressure than usual in the run-up to Christmas because of a shortage of drivers that threatens the delivery of vital seasonal goods and other foodstuffs.

The Freight Transport Association’s skills ­policy development ­manager, Sally Gilson, told The Grocer concerns over the festive period, the busiest time of the year for deliveries, were mounting. “FTA members are telling us they have genuine concerns over their ability to deliver Christmas this year,” she said.

Freight industry experts believe the high cost associated with training young ­drivers has led to an industry-wide shortage affecting retailers, ­suppliers and logistics specialists.

A post on The Co-operative Group’s staff Facebook page said: “Driver issues are affecting the whole world of transport, not just our company… it’s only going to get worse in the next couple of months.”

Some operators are calling for greater help from government in terms of training.

“The cost of training has been a major restriction for younger drivers and we believe this is something that needs to be addressed across the industry, with support from the government,” said Wincanton HR ­director Julie Welch.

This year, many companies are putting contingency plans in place to cope. The Co-op Group said it was currently recruiting new drivers, and Wincanton stressed it was confident of meeting all its Christmas deadlines.

Meanwhile, logistics specialist NFT said it had put in place a structure that ensured supply even in the event of local shortages. “We are aware some of our competitors have left addressing this challenge far too late, which has led to the creation of a perception this is uncontrollable,” said sales and marketing director Dale Fiddy.