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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

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.


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[2] 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.[2]

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.[3] As of 2009, only Bluebird Automotive[4] 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.


Horse-drawn milk float, c. 1904, with dropped axle

Before BEVs, dairy supplies were delivered using horse-drawn milk floats. This lasted from the late 19th century until the 1950s.[5] 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. ^ a b "News and Views: Britain's Electric Vehicles". Autocar. 127 nbr 3729: page 55. 3 August 1967. 
  3. ^ "History of Milk Floats". Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  4. ^ "Bluebird Automotive Milk Floats". Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  5. ^ "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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349 news items

Torquay Herald Express

Torquay Herald Express
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 02:11:15 -0700

A MILK float overturned and blocked the main Totnes to Newton Abbot road early today. The milk float was on its early morning round at 4am when it turned on its side in the accident near Two Mile Oak on the A381 near Whiddon Road. Devon County ...

The Wharf

The Wharf
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 02:22:30 -0700

Next up on the bovine bill is the creation of The Milk Float - a boat spanning 70ft long and 12ft wide - to house the world's first floating canoe hire cafe. Currently being built in Newark and with a launch date set for the end of July, a Kickstarter ...


Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:45:00 -0700

Weetabix has created a monster V8 milk float in the hope it will smash the world record for fastest milk delivery machine. To celebrate the launch of its new 'On the Go' breakfast drink, Weetabix has created a V8 milk float which can reach speeds of up ...


Thu, 10 Apr 2014 10:14:39 -0700

Broad swapped his cricket whites for traditional milkman's attire as he delivered Weetabix's new On the Go Breakfast Drinks on a milk float! The new drink is supposed to offer a quick and nutritious alternative to those who don't have time to stop in ...
Craig Daily Press
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:29:03 -0700

Georgie works for a dairy. Every morning, he is up early to hitch Mr. Asquith, the horse, to a float. Together, they deliver milk to clients. More than anything in the world, Alfie would like to ride on the milk float with his father, but Georgie just ...

Liverpool Echo

Liverpool Echo
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:02:58 -0700

Milkman David Reid denies causing serious injury by dangerous driving. Preston Crown Court. A Liverpool submariner needs round-the-clock care after being knocked down by a milk float which then continued on its round on the way to call for help.


Wed, 16 Apr 2014 01:48:45 -0700

A 1981 Daimler Sovereign Saloon that featured in Minder sold for £15,525, whilst the original EastEnders Morris milk float sold for £2,300. Another frenzied bidding war saw an incredibly low mileage 1983 Fiat X19 Bertone sell for £17,940, more than ...


Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:22:30 -0700

Form the world of TV was a 1981 Daimler Sovereign Saloon that featured in Minder, selling for £15,525, whilst the original EastEnders Morris milk float (below) sold for £2,300. Eastenders milk float. Another frenzied bidding war saw an incredibly low ...

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