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Hauliers are warning that a national shortage of lorry drivers could hit deliveries to shops and stores in the run-up to Christmas.

They say the cost of obtaining a licence and strict EU rules are putting off many would-be drivers.

What we re concerned about is that as things start to ramp up around Christmas... there just simply won t be enough drivers available to make all the deliveries that are needed, said Natalie Chapman of the Freight Transport Association.

According to the organisation, 40% of lorry drivers are 50 or over, while just 1% are under the age of 25.

Chris Stevenson, 24, from Bloxwich, told Sky News he is desperate to become a lorry driver.

It s the freedom of the job really. Seeing a bit of the country, maybe seeing a bit of the world. Doing continental driving, you can get around a bit - (it) beats being stuck in one place all the while.

However, three unsuccessful attempts to get his HGV licence have cost him £2,500 so far.

John Heighway, transport manager at Devaneys Haulage, says such costs and the image of the profession have resulted in too few young people wanting to join it.

It s quite desperate really. We could have enough work for an extra 10 vehicles.

“But we just don t have the drivers to cover it, so we just have to turn work down which is something we don t like doing.

That is great news for agency staff like Martins Svarcs from Latvia, who is working for the West Bromwich-based company.

I m working every day, five days a week, nine hours driving a day, so I m happy.

But even temporary workers cannot fill all the vacant posts.

Hauliers say the problem is being made worse by EU rules which require experienced drivers to undertake further costly training - or face a large fine.

Roy Reynolds, 68, from Wolverhampton had been driving for 41 years and like many others decided to quit.

Now regulations are coming in where you ve got to go back to the classroom.

I don t feel that I need to do that with the experience that I ve gained over a number of years. It just seems pointless, so I decided to retire.

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