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An electric milk float in Liverpool city centre, June 2005
A horse-drawn milk float in Ryeburne Street, Oldham, England, in 1978
Horse-drawn milk float, c. 1904, with dropped axle
A Dairy Crest Smith's Elizabethan milk float
A Dairy Crest Ford Transit based milk float
A Dairy Crest ex-Unigate Wales & Edwards Rangemaster milk float.

In British English, a milk float is a vehicle specifically designed for the delivery of fresh milk. Today, milk floats are usually battery electric vehicles (BEV), but they were formerly horse-drawn. They were once common in many European countries, particularly the United Kingdom, and were operated by local dairies. However, in recent years, as the number of supermarkets, small independent grocers and petrol stations stocking fresh milk has increased, most people have switched from regular home delivery to obtaining fresh milk from these other sources.


Because of the relatively small power output from its electric motor, a milk float travels fairly slowly, usually around 10 to 16 miles per hour (16 to 26 km/h) although some have been modified to do up to 80 mph (130 km/h).[1] Operators often exit their vehicle before they have completely stopped to speed up deliveries; milk floats generally have sliding doors that can be left open when moving, or may have no doors at all. Electric milk floats come in three wheel and four wheel versions, the latter normally larger. They are very quiet, suiting operations in residential areas during the early hours of the morning or during the night.

Most electric milk floats do not have seat belts, and the law in the United Kingdom only requires wearing seat belts where these are fitted in the vehicle. While there was previously an exemption in the law meaning those making local deliveries were not required to wear a seat belt, which would in theory have included drivers and passengers in milk floats with seat belts fitted, the law was changed in 2005 to deliveries less than 50 metres (160 ft) apart.[2]


In August 1967 the UK Electric Vehicle Association put out a press release stating that Britain had more battery-electric vehicles on its roads than the rest of the world put together[3] It is not clear what research the association had undertaken into the electric vehicle populations of other countries, but closer inspection disclosed that almost all of the battery driven vehicles licensed for UK road use were milk floats.[3]

Glasgow has one of the largest working milk float fleets in the UK. Most of the vehicles operate from the Grandtully Depot in Kelvindale. Some dairies in the UK, including Dairy Crest, have had to modernise and have replaced their electric milk floats with petrol or diesel fuel-powered vehicles to speed up deliveries and thus increase profit.


Manufacturers of milk floats in Britain in the 20th century included Morrison-Electricar, Smith's, Wales & Edwards, Osborne, Harbilt, Brush, Bedford and British Leyland. In 1941 Morrison-Electricar standardised three types of body which would become the basis for thousands of milk floats built after the war to deliver goods to the recovering population.[4] As of 2009, only Bluebird Automotive[5] remain in the industry.

During 2012, Bluebird Automotive will be launching a new generation of milk float. Called the BE-1, it is a city delivery vehicle with a 1.7 metric tonne payload. It incorporates battery swapping so that flat batteries can be replaced with fully charged batteries at a depot in around four minutes.


Before BEVs, dairy supplies were delivered using horse-drawn milk floats. This lasted from the late 19th century until the 1950s.[6] Today, with rounds expanding in coverage to ensure profitability in the face of falling levels of patronage, the limited range and speed of electric milk floats have resulted in many being replaced by diesel-powered converted vans.


A collection of milk floats and other BEVs is kept by the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Trust at their museum, and in addition several milk floats are still in service today, albeit repurposed after their milk delivery days. Many are used for work in factories, or as pleasure vehicles in rural areas, and some are hired out to make money for film, pr and events.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Electron E150". Bluebird Automotive. Archived from the original on 12 December 2008. Retrieved 2010-11-27. 
  2. ^ "Seat Belt Law". needasolicitor.com. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "News and Views: Britain's Electric Vehicles". Autocar. 127 nbr 3729: page 55. 3 August 1967. 
  4. ^ "History of Milk Floats". Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  5. ^ "Bluebird Automotive Milk Floats". Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  6. ^ "Commercial vehicles: As it was in the beginning". National Transport Museum of Ireland. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_float — Please support Wikipedia.
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24 news items

Derby Telegraph

Sat, 28 Jun 2014 08:00:00 -0700

Lovers of high-speed milk delivery will be excited to learn that the world record for fastest milk float has been smashed with a mind-blowing speed of 84.5mph. The supercharged milk delivery vehicle was specially adapted for the world record attempt ...

Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph
Thu, 26 Jun 2014 09:18:45 -0700

The specially-adapted vehicle, sponsored by Weetabix On The Go Breakfast Drinks, beat the existing top speed for a milk float of 77mph on the tarmac at Bruntingthopre in Leicestershire. Complete with bull-bars, and boasting a V8 engine, the float was ...


Tue, 22 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0700

The 65-year-old will hand in the keys to his milk float after his final shift on Saturday (July 26). He told GetWestLondon he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, two children, a step-daughter and five grandchildren. "At the moment I ...

Manchester Evening News

Manchester Evening News
Sun, 20 Jul 2014 11:04:06 -0700

It was described as a “shiverer”; it was suffering from a disease of nervous affection of the spine. When it was put into harness it simply rocked and was liable to fall any moment. Defence stated it has been regularly used in a milk float at Stockport ...


Sat, 19 Jul 2014 06:17:45 -0700

p][/quote]Bloody cars causing traffic jams everywhere, jumping red light drivers always on the phone. not paying 'road tax[/p][/quote]Never, no taxi, lorry, car, mini bus, HGV, bus, coach, milk float, has ever broken the law. Only cyclists! Ms Toad ...
Fri, 11 Jul 2014 04:23:42 -0700

And although the song was not written about him, customers on his round used to hand him copies of the record and sing as he passed on his milk float. Now tributes have been paid to Mr Tisdale after he passed away aged 83. The great-grandfather from ...

Ely News

Ely News
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 08:22:30 -0700

“My teacher said it was a good idea. It was a similar reaction to my friends and it was all very positive.” Mr Kendal said: “It was very funny, I had to sign for it and everything. “We had tractors taking the students in and a milk float, but I have ...
Telegraph.co.uk (blog)
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 02:45:00 -0700

The utterly alien sound of an electric milk float bumping down the road in the wee hours. The biggest difference, though – obviously – is the weather. After living in a land where it's usually sunny, hot or even hotter, and rains just a handful of ...

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