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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] 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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49 news items

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Fri, 17 Oct 2014 09:04:27 -0700

A 71-year-old milkman who ran down a cyclist when driving his float on the wrong side of the road carried on his round saying 'they are dangerous' and he had customers to serve. David Reid stopped briefly to check on Royal Navy submariner Paul Reynolds ...

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press
Thu, 09 Oct 2014 01:37:30 -0700

Video: Sheringham folk singer Paul Thompson is travelling the UK in converted electric milk float for upcoming tour. Singer Paul Thompson who will be going on tour in a milk float. Picture: ANTONY KELLY. By sabah meddings Friday, October 10, 2014

Gazette Live

Gazette Live
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:04:34 -0700

A costume shop owner who has been dressing Teesside up for more than two decades is closing its doors. Bernard Jackson, a former milkman, has run Maskerade on Bishopton Lane in Stockton, for 25 years, after he swapped his milk float for platform boots.

NW Evening Mail

NW Evening Mail
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 04:32:07 -0700

Reid hit 36-year-old Royal Navy submariner Paul Reynolds, while driving his milk float on the wrong side of the road on February 27, 2013. Reid stopped briefly to check on Mr Reynolds as he lay injured in the road before getting back into his vehicle ...

ITV News

ITV News
Wed, 24 Sep 2014 20:56:15 -0700

The dying wish of nearly a third (27%) of people in the West Midlands is for an 'alternative' hearse at their funeral, such as a milk float, lorry, JCB or white van - the highest in the UK, according to new research. JCB. Some people choose to be ...


Mon, 13 Oct 2014 04:03:45 -0700

Hundreds of university students across the Midlands are being disciplined each year for offences ranging from criminal activity such as drug use to petty cases such as burning incense candles in accommodation blocks.

BBC News

BBC News
Thu, 25 Sep 2014 18:56:49 -0700

This was an era when Linford Christie raced a milk float. But the nostalgia relates as much to the diminished presence of the milkman as the bottles themselves. Their ever-presence in British lives made them ripe for pop culture parody - mainly the ...


Mon, 13 Oct 2014 04:03:45 -0700

We hate the rain when we're out in it, but these vintage pictures of a flooded London are oddly beautiful and often very funny - like this picture of a man trying to leap over a flooded road near Hyde Park in 1939! (We don't think he made it) ...

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