Other sources show the term "milk run" to be in use in rural areas of the American Upper Midwest as early as 1917, where it was used to describe a train that made frequent stops to pick up farmers' milk cans for shipment to local dairies for processing and bottling. The Macmillan online dictionary describes the American usage as, "AMERICAN an airplane or train trip with stops at many places." In this context, the term was popularly used to describe a slow, tedious trip. The same entry describes a somewhat different British usage: "BRITISH a regular trip during which nothing unusual happens, especially by airplane."
In American urban culture, a milk run came to describe the distribution of milk bottles by the milkman. On his daily route, the milkman simultaneously distributed the full bottles and collected the empty bottles from a previous delivery and would then return with the empty bottles back to the starting point.
In the context of logistics, according to Winfrid Meusel, milk runs were any routes that originated by identifying potential circular tours, whereby the utilization of trucks could be increased and logistics costs could be reduced.
In the commercial airline industry, "milk run" has been used to describe multi-stop, regularly-scheduled flights performed by a single aircraft. Current examples of such routes include:
- Several Alaska Airlines routes connecting smaller Alaskan cities to Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Seattle.
- United Airlines tri-weekly Island Hopper service from Honolulu to Guam via Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Kwajalein and Majuro.
- Ammer, Christine (1989). Fighting Words from War, Rebellion, and Other Combative Capers. BookBaby. p. 14. ISBN 1626759669.
- Wegner, A. C. (February 3, 1917). "A Heavy Freight Carrying Railway". Electric Railway Journal. XLIX (5): 207f. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
- "MILK RUN (noun) American English definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary". www.macmillandictionary.com. Retrieved 2021-06-12.
- Werner, Hartmut (2008): Supply Chain Management. Grundlagen Strategien Instrumente und Controlling /// Grundlagen, Strategien, Instrumente und Controlling. 3., vollständig überarbeitete und erweiterte Auflage. Wiesbaden: Betriebswirtschaftlicher Verlag Dr. Th. Gabler | GWV Fachverlage GmbH Wiesbaden
- Meusel, Winfrid (1995): Realisierung eines Logistikberater-Arbeitsplatzes für das Frachtkostencontrolling mit wissensbasierten Elementen. Nürnberg, Univ., Diss.--Erlangen, 1995. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin: Lang (Europäische Hoch-schulschriftenReihe 5, Volks- und Betriebswirtschaft, 1755).
- "The Milk Run is a hop, skip and a jump along Southeast Alaska's coast". Alaska Airlines Blog. 2015-06-11. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
- Kirkland, Erin (2014). Alaska on the Go. University of Alaska Press. p. 9. Retrieved 2018-05-01.