Interview with industry legend – Daniel Stewart

Having been in business since 1957, some members of the Gray & Adams team who have been with the business for generations, have had the opportunity to meet many interesting and important characters to the logistics industry and listen to their stories on the ever-changing technology of the sector.

One such character, who touched many lives and who was also a very dear friend and customer to the Gray family is Daniel Stewart. Daniel Stewart won the 2018 TCS&D lifetime achievement award for his many years of commitment and service to the temperature-controlled logistics industry.

With such a wealth of knowledge and industry expertise at his fingertips, Gray & Adams is delighted to share his career story, and how he became such a firm friend of Jim Gray Snr and a loyal customer to Gray & Adams.

“I came from a large family and grew up in Blairgowrie. In my family, there was three boys and four girls, and I left school at 14 years old with not much education, which was very common in those days.

When I left school, I went to work as a parcel carrier for a local businessman that ran three vehicles, I believe they were around 7.5 to 8T maximum weight vehicles from memory. I was fortunate enough to be the parcel boy on the lorry that the owner himself drove, so I had the opportunity to learn a lot from him including how to drive. This was my first experience of the logistics industry and it’s where I developed a keen interest in running a business.

Unfortunately, the business owner I worked with was a very kind man who I got on well with, but he did not pay me very much, if at all and my mother kept telling me I needed to find a new job to help pay my way! He eventually gave me an increase to £2 and 6 shillings per week – it was at this point I thought to myself that if I ever ran a business, I would do everything in my power to pay my staff fairly and treat them well. This was something that Jim Gray and I were very much aligned on.

I was called up for national service and then subsequently spent some time in the forces. When I left, I decided I was going to use the skills I had gained previously to start my own business and I bought a lorry with what they called an A license in 1952, and began doing deliveries for local businesses, this then grew to two lorries in 1954 so I felt that things were going well for my small business. It was at this point that I got friendly with the owners of Smedleys Grocers and began doing deliveries for their business and I became quite close with the Smedley family as I was known for giving them very good service.

It was in the Smedley’s transport office that I was first introduced to refrigerated transport and Jim Gray. He had come by with a refrigerated van that he was trying to sell to customers by driving it round the country and stopping at different customers to show them the van in person. It was the first time I had ever seen a refrigerated vehicle, so I was very intrigued. The Smedley family encouraged me to purchase two vehicles from Jim in 1963 and we became very close over the years.

In 1968, things in the industry began to change rapidly and I sold my business to Salvesen who then made me the Managing Director of the new venture. 16 years later, the business had grown to 550 vehicles and nine depots. Some of the fleet was refrigerated so we became a very big customer to Gray & Adams which helped develop my professional and personal relationship with Jim. I was also involved in helping Gray & Adams select a suitable site for their depot in Doncaster when the business was looking to expand as I knew the area well.

After leaving Salvesen, I explored other ventures in other industries but eventually decided to come back to transport, a significant point in my career was joining Corby Transport in 1993. This was a great opportunity for refrigerated transport as chilled pre-made sandwiches and other such conveniences were becoming more popular. Therefore, again I had a lot of contact with Gray & Adams who were able to share their ongoing innovations with me over the years and I was of course very interested to see their business doing well.

I brought my family into the Corby Transport business and can accredit much of the success of the business to my son and daughter. When my son became MD, I told him that he must only buy from Gray & Adams as there is no better product on the market.

In 2018, Gray & Adams nominated me for a Lifetime Achievement Award at the TCS&D awards and I was delighted to have won. It was a very proud moment for me.

I am now retired but I still have a keen interest in the industry and remain close to the Gray family to this day.”