Dairies face crisis over lack of milkmen after comeback of deliveries

Dairies face crisis over lack of milkmen after comeback of early-morning doorstep deliveries prove so successful there are not enough workers to meet demand

  • Thousands sign up for milk deliveries in a desire to use fewer plastic cartons  
  • Milk and More pays recruits £24,000-a-year and is looking to add 150 new staff 
  • But the company found that the demands of the job are putting some workers off

The sight of a milk float trundling down a suburban street in the half-light of dawn, its cargo gently clinking, once seemed like a scene that would be consigned to history.

But the remarkable comeback of the early-morning doorstep delivery has proved so successful that dairies don’t have enough milkmen – or milkwomen – to meet demand.

In some areas, the recruitment crisis is so dire that precious pintas are not arriving until lunchtime – far too late for the breakfast table.

Mother-of-three Nina Godwin, who joined the company a year ago, starts at midnight and gets home at 8am, working six shifts a week in Maldon, Essex, and nearby villages. Milk & More is not the only company struggling for staff

Now Milk & More, which controls half the market, has launched a major drive to find the new staff they need to ensure that deliveries are made in time.

But the company has found that the demands of the job – working through the night alone, and being outside in all weathers – are putting off some workers from following in the footsteps of Ernie, the ‘fastest milkman in the West’ that comedian Benny Hill famously sang about in the 1970s.

In that decade, 94 per cent of households had a daily pinta delivered. Today that figure might only be three per cent, but demand has jumped by a quarter in the past 12 months. 

The remarkable comeback of the early-morning doorstep delivery has proved so successful that dairies don’t have enough milkmen – or milkwomen – to meet demand. In some areas, the recruitment crisis is so dire that precious pintas are not arriving until lunchtime – far too late for the breakfast table [File photo]

And thousands more potential customers are keen to sign up, driven, in part, by a desire to use fewer plastic cartons.

Milk & More, which delivers to 500,000 homes, wants to add 150 staff to its current 1,100 team. 

Some recruits are in the middle of their 12-week training for the £24,312-a-year job, but another 50 are needed to work from depots in Bristol and Reading.

Mother-of-three Nina Godwin, who joined the company a year ago, said: ‘You have to be determined and hard-working, and as long as you get your sleep, are self-motivated and don’t mind your own company, you’ll be fine.’

The 46-year-old starts at midnight and gets home at 8am, working six shifts a week in Maldon, Essex, and nearby villages.

The company has found that the demands of the job – working through the night alone, and being outside in all weathers – are putting off some workers from following in the footsteps of Ernie, the ‘fastest milkman in the West’ that comedian Benny Hill famously sang about in the 1970s

Her PE teacher husband Geoff wasn’t keen about her working alone at night, but Mrs Godwin said: ‘I really wanted to give it a go and I’m enjoying it. I am the only lady milkman at the depot but everyone is very supportive.

‘I sometimes get spooked at night but I carry a torch. The hardest thing to get used to is sleeping in the day and getting into a routine with sleep. It took me a few months to get a pattern.

‘I’ve seen new recruits leave after a very short time but in most cases I honestly think they did not give the job a chance.’

Milk & More is not the only company struggling for staff. 

Plumb’s Dairy, a family business in Lynton, Cambridgeshire, employs 34 milkmen to cover 12,000 households, and director Justin Plumb, 43, said: ‘I could add another 1,600 customers now if I had the drivers. It is really hard to find people.

‘I have been looking for three new drivers for 12 weeks and have only found one. I need another two. I’ve had to do some routes myself, as does my manager.

‘One of the problems is this area is highly skilled with low unemployment, and we have only a tiny pool of jobseekers to choose from.

‘If we can’t recruit in the new year, reluctantly we may have to pull out of a few rounds.’

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