Ernie, long since felled by one of Two-Tonne Ted of Teddington’s rock cakes, may once have driven the fastest milk cart in the west, but even he would have had difficulty keeping up with Ian Beardwell.
A milkman for 28 years, he has just taken delivery of what must surely be the world’s fastest production milk float: the DHL StreetScooter. Weighing 2600kg fully laden, it has a top speed of 53mph compared with his old, 4500kg Unigate float’s 10mph.
“Those old SEV Cabac floats were so slow,” Ian says when I join him early one morning on his south-west London round. “Uncomfortable, too. You’d end your shift with knackered knees and ankles.” His StreetScooter must feel like a Rolls-Royce in comparison. It’s powerful – there’s a Boost mode for extra grunt – and has light but direct power steering. It’s smooth-riding, crossing speed humps without disturbing the bottles stacked behind, and safe, with a rear-view camera for urban U-turns. In short, it’s transformed Ian’s working life.
He’s a big lad but thanks to his driver-friendly StreetScooter Ian can move like a gazelle, leaping from the driver’s seat (conveniently, the StreetScooter is a left-hooker) to slide open the van’s lightweight side door, grab the next order, hurry to the customer’s front door to make the drop and collect the empties and hop back in. It’s a high-energy routine he repeats 300 times a day (he has 650 customers but not everyone has a daily delivery), starting at one in the morning and finishing at seven. “I’m one very happy milkman,” he says, his eyes shining.