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An electric milk float in Liverpool city centre, June 2005
A horse-drawn milk float in Montreal, Quebec, in 1942
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] remained 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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846 news items

Stornoway Gazette

Stornoway Gazette
Thu, 09 Jul 2015 23:56:15 -0700

To fund the tour Paul is selling advertising space on his milk float. Talking about the trip Paul explained that he chose a milk float as his touring vehicle due to the “environmental aspect” of the journey (the milk float is fitted with solar panels ...

Highland News

Highland News
Fri, 24 Jul 2015 02:00:00 -0700

MUSICIAN Paul Thompson is delivering the sounds from his latest album from Norfolk by milk float on a journey he hopes might get him into the Guinness Book Of Records. Travelling off the A-roads, Paul is managing a leisurely 30 miles a day at an ...


Wed, 08 Jul 2015 00:18:45 -0700

A thief injured a milkman after driving off in his float as the dairy worker clung desperately to its side. Martin McIntyre, 39, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicle taking, theft and three charges of interfering with a motor ...

The Southern Reporter

The Southern Reporter
Sat, 11 Jul 2015 02:11:15 -0700

Clark was a modern race driver who took advantage of the many PR opportunities offered to him. That is to say money of course. But he also put up money to enable Scotchcircuits Ltd. to open a new race track near Edinburgh and took part in an impromptu ...

Event Magazine

Event Magazine
Tue, 14 Jul 2015 01:37:30 -0700

Visitors to the customised milk float will be able to sample the new iced concoction and party to music provided by in-house DJs. The activation will also house a face-painting studio. Following its appearance at Lovebox, the Cool Beans experience will ...

Island News & Advertiser

Island News & Advertiser
Tue, 14 Jul 2015 06:04:54 -0700

Paul's 12 week tour will see him cover 2,000 miles as the only solo musician ever to tour Britain in a milk float. Paul, 44, has another life as a live-in carer, but his passion for music, nature, travel and sound recording has enabled him to create ...

Plymouth Herald

Plymouth Herald
Mon, 03 Aug 2015 10:37:30 -0700

The city's very own Shed On Wheels, formerly a 1970s Morris milk float, launched a campaign earlier this year to raise £4,000 in order to fund much-needed repairs. The Shed On Wheels project was first launched in 2012 by Plymouth-based arts ...

Western Morning News

Western Morning News
Mon, 03 Aug 2015 03:14:47 -0700

You've all read the horror stories about pure electric cars. You know, slow like a milk float, range of about five miles, can't charge them up anywhere and take a whole day to charge... Oh – and it's not a car unless it uses an combustion engine. Let's ...

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