The BIG Interview – David Steven, Managing Director of D. Steven & Son

D. Steven & Son has been operating in the North of Scotland since the 1920s and were proud to celebrate their 100th year in business in 2020. Primarily providing haulage services to the seafood, fishing, oil and agricultural industries, D. Steven & Son has won various prestigious industry awards over the years including the Transport News awards in 2021 and Scottish Haulage Company of the Year 2022. Gray & Adams are proud to have a long-term relationship with them as a valued customer. For this issue of the BIG Interview, we sat down with Managing Director, David Steven to discuss his business and the long standing relationship between our businesses.  

How long has D. Steven & Son been working with Gray & Adams?

The two businesses have worked together for many years. The relationship first began when my father bought a rigid body trailer from Jim Gray Snr back in the 1960s, prior to Gray & Adams moving into the refrigeration market. The relationship has since continued, and we have been working regularly with them since the 1980s to purchase trailers.

What services do D. Steven & Son provide and in which sectors?

We primarily distribute seafood from local businesses and fisheries in the North of Scotland across the UK and the EU. Due to the impact of Brexit, our international business has changed, and our main strategic focus has shifted to national business over the last couple of years. We supply highly recognisable products, such as farmed salmon, to supermarkets and wholesalers across Britain through our network of 56 full-time employees, 16 part-time employees and 55 trailers. 

What have been the impacts of Covid-19 for D. Steven & Son?

We feel that we have been more protected from the impacts of Covid-19 compared to other businesses in heavily populated locations, however we put the required regulations in place to protect our colleagues and customers. The location of our HQ is some distance away from the largest cities in Scotland, meaning that we did not have the same risks as areas with larger populations. However, the demand for seafood went down within our usual market, fortunately this has now picked up again. 

How do you feel the D. Steven & Son business aligns to the Gray & Adams business?

Gray & Adams’ ethos aligns very well with our own. We are a family business, as is G&A and we find that through the shared experience of running a family business we have found we have a lot in common, including shared values. They are also very nice people to work with which makes the process of working with them incredibly easy!

What challenges do you see the industry facing at the moment?

One of the main challenges to D. Steven & Son, specifically, has been the impacts of Brexit. Over the years, we have expanded our business to serve the European market, and the EU member countries. However, this market has slowed for us with the wider discussions and considerations of Brexit, the EU and how it engages with British fishing industries. We are now focusing on maximising our national business to mitigate any risks and this has proven to be a sensible strategic decision. 

What are the key innovations in the industry in 2021 from your perspective?

I find it particularly interesting how electric vehicle technology and electric refrigeration has progressed and been adopted since I started my life in the transport industry. It’s great to see new technologies being so widely adopted and, of course, we have followed the collaboration between Gray & Adams and Carrier Transicold on the Vector E-Cool with interest. As the technology progresses, hopefully the cost of fully adopting the technology will be reduced to encourage smaller operators to look at other options outside of diesel. 

What factors are important when considering the specifications of your fleet and how does Gray & Adams help you to achieve them?

What is important to me is longevity with our fleet. All our refrigerated trailers have been built by Gray & Adams and the reason for this is because the build quality is so robust that we know that they will work hard for us and they don’t reduce too quickly in value.
We have also explored the market extensively to ensure we get a product that is right for the job we need it to do, so quality and technical specifications come first in our consideration and then price is second, however we find that G&A trailers deliver great value for money.

Finally, your thoughts about the overall service and aftercare received from the Gray & Adams team?

We have dealt with Gray & Adams for a long time and we always come back to them because they are knowledgeable, friendly and easy to deal with. It’s also great to have their Fraserburgh base so close to our HQ which has been beneficial to both the business and our relationship.  

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