Want to Be a Milk Hauler? Here’s What it Takes

I’ve been hauling milk for 22 years and I can truthfully say that I still enjoy it. It’s what I love to do. I like working with people and interacting with them when I go to the farms to do my pick-ups. Their friendly courtesy and appreciation are the best part of my job. While I may not know the names of everyone I see, I recall the faces and enjoy a pleasant exchange of “Hi, how are you doing,” every day.  

I also appreciate the opportunity to be outdoors, and on my feet. That does come with a trade-off during the winter months. The most challenging part of my job is dealing with winter weather. As anyone who’s ever lived in the Northeastern states like New York, New Jersey, Vermont or Massachusetts can tell you, snowstorms often catch you by surprise. The weather people can give you a bit of a heads-up, but you never know when you will be caught in the middle of a raging blizzard.

Being prepared – mentally and tactically – to deal with these events is an important part of the job.

My Most Memorable Storm

About four years ago while I was hauling a tanker of organic milk to Buffalo in western New York, a large amount of lake-effect snow came in from Lake Erie.

I was on the New York Thruway when the snow began piling up. There must have been plows on the road somewhere, but not near me. By the time I got to the Rochester area it was stop-and-go for miles, it was snowing so hard. I finally got to what I thought was my exit, but since the visibility was so poor, I missed it. So I had to double back and finally, after what seemed like hours, I made it to the milk plant.

I ended up staying overnight in Buffalo because the roads were all closed, but it could have been a lot worse—it could have been the 1993 storm that broke pretty much every weather record.

Keeping Cool Under Pressure

Having driven for so many years, I’ve learned that you need to take everything in stride. Part of life is paying attention to the road and learning how to control yourself. So many people drive in a crazy and aggressive manner, you just have to deal with it and not react in the same way. It’s part of life and this job. This advice does not only pertain to the act of collecting milk for haulers.

We have to learn a whole new set of skills when we begin this job. We need to learn how to agitate the tank so the cream mixes with the milk, to take samples, and sometimes, if we work in Amish country, to use a hydraulic system instead of an electric one to pump the milk.

The quality of our work – every step of the way – requires calm, focus and attention to detail.

Paul Elkins

If there’s one thing Paul Elkins knows well, it’s the milk-hauling business. He started with Wadhams on Valentine’s Day way back when he was a fresh-faced 22-year-old. He’s still fresh-faced—it comes from being up with the cows! They have to be milked each day and that milk has to be hauled. Paul is happy to be the one to do it. He loves the people and he loves his job.