The haulage industry could be a forgotten victim of the retail downturn, according to a Midlands expert.
Tony Mitchell, managing director of Cranfield Recovery, says the sector is facing its toughest ever year in 2006.
It follows a harsh 2005 with the rise in fuel prices.
Mr Mitchell, a licensed insolvency practitioner and a member of the Midlands' regional committee of the Association of Business Recovery Professionals, says the industry could see several victims in the coming months.
"The rise in fuel prices has brought great pressure on the sector and it has been a very hard year," he warned.
"Fuel represents around 30 per cent of an operator's costs so it has had a huge impact. Statutary changes in working hours and driver management have added to the problems.
"To top that, the influx of foreign lorries is also having a huge impact. There are 10,000 foreign vehicles working in the UK every day and they are, with the odd exception, exempt from charges and taxes because they bring their fuel with them.
"Hauliers, large and small, play a huge role in the logistics operation of high street stores and I am concerned that the downturn in retail - which is forecast to see several high profile victims once the sales have finished - will be very bad news for the haulage industry."
Dylan Kent, managing director of leading Warwick-shire haulage and warehousing firm Draycote Continentale said the sector was facing more pressures than before.
"We run 37 vehicles across the UK and Europe and there is no question that it will be a tough year for the industry.
"We pay higher fuel prices than any other European country because of the amount of tax which is levied by the Government and that means, when other factors come into play, UK operators are hit more than most.
"We are fortunate because we are in a strong position but we know of others who are not so well placed and 2006 will be especially testing for them."