DuraStar: The Modern Milkman

Steve Brancato and his International® deliver daily doses of dairy to local Michigan families.

BY: MIKE HAMMER

PHOTOS BY: BRIDGET BARRETT


Steve Brancato is one of the last bona fide milkmen in America. For more than 38 years he’s been faithfully delivering milk to his customers in the suburbs of Detroit.
“My original goal was to provide my customers with the best dairy products and to do it on time every single day,” says the 57-year-old Michigan native. “They’ve come to rely on me, and that's what it’s all about.”

Brancato says he’s been able to provide that reliability because of his 2003 International with MaxxForce DT engine. “My day starts at 2 a.m., and you never want to encounter a problem at that time,” he says. “People want to wake up in the morning and know that their milk will be there. This truck has ensured that I am able to follow through on that promise.”

Brancato says he has put more than 300,000 miles on the vehicle, traversing some of the toughest road conditions the brutal Midwest weather could throw at him. “We’ve had some of the most difficult winters anyone could ever imagine,” he says. “And that truck started for me in the predawn frost every single day. It also handles great on the winter roads, giving me very few occasions to ever worry about getting around.”

The truck is more than just a reliable worker. Brancato says it’s also his most effective advertisement. “It’s a beautiful vehicle and I’ve given it a real brand identity,” he says. “It’s got my logo with a black-and-white cow and a classic glass bottle of fresh country milk. It’s got bumpers and diamond plating on the back, along with stainless-steel hitches. People love to see it coming.”

And according to Brancato, it’s helped grow his business in the process. “People who don’t know me, see me and want to know more about me,” he says. “People who do know me welcome me and my truck like we’re part of the family.” Brancato is now working with his third International over the course of his nearly four decades of reliable service.

“It’s a very personal business,” he says. “I started with 40 families and now I have about 200,” Brancato explains. “Mostly it’s from word of mouth. I’ve delivered to people for decades, and now I’m delivering to their kids. Heck, I’m going to their weddings! People know that they can trust me, and that’s because of this truck.”

And while the business has grown and diversified to include commercial deliveries to 75 schools and restaurants, it’s the human connection that continues to drive Brancato. “I’ll never grow to a huge level,” he says. “I don’t want to lose that personal connection. But if I didn’t have a good truck, I’d be out of business. It’s taken care of me, and even more important, it’s taken care of my customers.”