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Red Diesel FAQ

Looking to learn more about red diesel fuel, the low fuel duty alternative to road diesel? Read our FAQ for a detailed insight into its usage. You can also request a quote from our fuel experts by calling us on 0330 678 0880.

Learn More About Red Diesel by Reading Our Questions and Answers

Many people have heard about red diesel with the Government suggesting new measures around the fuel duty imposed on it in the 2020 budget. Others may have seen newspapers reporting thefts of red diesel and illegal use of the fuel by criminals.

Red diesel is a popular fuel, mainly used as an off-road fuel used in a whole range of industries and applications including agricultural businesses, construction, mining, diesel generators and more.

So, whether you’re new to red diesel and wondering what it is and have questions about it that you would like answering. Or even if you’ve been aware of it for some time, or maybe even a regular user of red diesel and curious to know more. We’ve put together our red diesel FAQ to answer many of the most commonly asked questions, from who uses it to where can I buy it from, along with many other questions. We’re here to help you by answering many of the questions we get asked about red diesel in our FAQ.

We’ll try and answer as many of your questions as possible here and clear up any of the confusion that many people seem to have when it comes to using red diesel legally and staying on the right side of the law.

Red Diesel Questions and Answers

  1. What is red diesel?
  2. Who can use red diesel?
  3. Is red diesel really red?
  4. Where can I buy red diesel from?
  5. What is the latest red diesel price?
  6. Is it illegal to use red diesel?
  7. Is red diesel known by any alternative names?
  8. Why is red diesel cheaper than white road diesel?
  9. Do you need a licence to buy red diesel?
  10. What is red diesel used for?
  11. Can red diesel be used for heating businesses?
  12. Which vehicles can use red diesel?
  13. Is red diesel illegal to use on public roads?
  14. Can red diesel be used to grit public roads?
  15. Can tractors gritting public roads use red diesel?
  16. Will using red diesel damage my car?
  17. Can the red dye be removed from red diesel?

What is red diesel?

Red diesel is a rebated fuel, meaning that the VAT rate is set lower than the standard white diesel available at petrol filling stations up and down the country.

The main users of red diesel are industries such as farming and agriculture, construction and manufacturing, datacentres and hospitals, to name but a few.

In general terms, it’s illegal to use it in vehicles used on public roads (although there are exceptions). But for vehicles used off-road, machinery and commercial heating systems, it’s legal to use red diesel for these applications.

Who can use red diesel?

Red diesel is an off-road fuel that is an important part of agriculture, industry and many more. It is used by farmers, in civil engineering, construction, hospitals and many more. It’s three main uses are as fuel to move off-road machinery, such as tractors, cranes, forklifts, among others; as heating in commercial and industrial buildings; and power generations in back-up generators in a variety of places.

Is red diesel really red?

It may seem like a catchy name to differentiate it from road/white diesel, but yes. It really does look red if you were to view it in a clear container. However, this is not its natural colour, there is a red dye which is added to the fuel before sale along with chemical markers.

The reason for the red dye is not to help increase performance, or lower emissions (which is handled by Adblue), but instead to help HMRC inspectors to more easily identify it when checking a vehicles fuel tank for signs of illegal usage on public roads.

Where can I buy red diesel from?

Because red diesel is not for general sale and not for use on public roads in the majority of cases. You will need to go to a specialist fuel supplier in order to purchase red diesel legally.

If you’re looking for a reliable red diesel supplier in the UK, you can buy red diesel from Nationwide Fuels. We deliver our range of fuels from fuel depots all over the UK, helping to ensure that no matter where you are, we can deliver red diesel to you.

We can deliver red diesel in fuel tankers, in any quantity from 500 litres right up to 36,000 litres or more if you need it! Of course, if you don’t have suitable fuel storage for your red diesel delivery, we can also supply red diesel in 205-litre barrels.

If you’d like to discuss your own needs and requirements with our red diesel fuel experts, give us a call today on 0330 678 0880.

What is the latest red diesel price?

If you’re looking for the latest red diesel price, one thing you will notice is that the vast majority of websites that specialise in selling red diesel will not display their prices.

Of course, we can’t speak for competitors, but from our perspective, we have considered providing an online price for red diesel but the problem comes down how this would work.

You see, if you go to a petrol filling station and you see the price is £x.xx, it doesn’t matter if you fill in your lawnmower or your articulated lorry. They’ll continue to bill you at the very same rate, without providing a volume-based discount to their customers.

However, here at Nationwide Fuels, we believe in passing on savings to our customers, regardless of the quantities you purchase. So, we can’t display a ‘one size fits all’ price per litre for our red diesel on our website as there are numerous factors which go into pricing our red diesel.

So, whether you’re purchasing red diesel in small quantities or in bulk. We’ll always give you our best prices! Call our red diesel experts today on 0330 678 0880 and let them know how much you need and we’ll give you a quote based on your exact requirements.

Is it illegal to use red diesel?

There’s a lot of confusion around red diesel, so hopefully, we can address many of these misconceptions within this red diesel FAQ.

Most people have heard of red diesel, thanks to regional newspapers online news websites in the UK running stories around individuals being prosecuted for using red diesel. The problem is, this often leads to people believing that red diesel is illegal.

However, the use of the fuel isn’t illegal so long as you only use it for the specified use cases which includes, but not limited to vehicles used off-road, diesel generators, for heating (although we recommend using heating oil), and other uses.

However, of course, there will be those who ignore the restrictions placed on red diesel usage, so this will be considered illegal use of red diesel. In these circumstances, this will be considered to be tax evasion and anyone caught doing so will face fines and prosecution.

Is red diesel known by any alternative names?

Depending on who you speak to about red diesel, you will hear it called many different names. Technically, red diesel is an alternative name for the fuels original name – gas oil.

The name red diesel came about after 1961 when it became a requirement to add a red diesel and chemical markers to it. Other names beyond gas oil include tractor diesel, 35 second oil, agricultural diesel, cherry red, generator diesel, to name but a few of the names it goes by.

Why is red diesel cheaper than white road diesel?

In short, this is because red diesel has a lower fuel duty applied to it, but is not designated for use on public roads in the same way that white diesel is. Using red diesel on public roads is illegal and could lead to a fine and prosecution if you are caught with it in the fuel tank of a vehicle used on public roads.

The longer answer, the reason for this goes back to 1928 and then later in 1959 when the rules were relaxed and the use of gas oil was extended to allow it to be used by all vehicles used exclusively off-road, regardless of design.

Then by 1961, it became a requirement to add a red dye and chemical markers to gas oil in order to make it easier for authorities to test and distinguish the use of red diesel in the fuel tanks of vehicles used on public roads for example.

Red diesel is generally used by agricultural businesses for powering their vehicles on their own land, as well as by the construction industry, public sector and many more.

Therefore, if you plan to drive your diesel engine vehicle on public roads, you will need to use white diesel which is taxed at a higher rate. If you are caught using red diesel in a vehicle being driven on public roads, you can be fined and prosecuted.

Do you need a licence to buy red diesel?

Although there are restrictions on its usage, there is no requirement or special licences required in order to purchase red diesel. However, you will need to sign an RDCO for which you can find here.

There are requirements put in place for the fuel company that sells red diesel or any other controlled oils (such as rebated bio blend, kerosene and aviation turbine fuel). They must be registered with HMRC, in order to sell controlled oils.

Thereafter, responsibility for ensuring the fuels are to be used for legitimate purposes falls to the dealer of the controlled oils. All customers purchasing these oils will then have their information and details about their transactions passed on to HMRC and subsequently, the Road Fuel Testing Units (RFTU).

If you wish to learn more about this, further information can be found on the HMRC website.

What is red diesel used for?

Red diesel is just like regular diesel, but with the addition of a red dye and chemical markers to help HMRC and the authorities to detect it in the fuel tanks of vehicles using it illegally.

Therefore, ignoring the legality of the fuel and its usage. You can use red diesel in any vehicles using diesel-powered engines, machinery and generators to name but a few of the uses.

Another name for red diesel is gas oil, which should help to explain another of red diesel’s uses in boilers for heating purposes. However, we recommend the use of dedicated heating oils rather than using red diesel.

If you do plan to use red diesel, you should be aware that restrictions on its use and to use it legally to avoid any potential fines and prosecution if you use it for any of the restricted uses.

Can red diesel be used for heating businesses?

Although many businesses do use red diesel in their heating systems, we always advise our customers to switch to industrial heating oil (IHO), a zero VAT fuel used for heating purposes.

It is important to note that IHO must only be used for heating purposes and must not be used for any other purpose.

Which vehicles can use red diesel?

Any vehicle or machinery that can operate on regular diesel will run just fine on red diesel, since they’re essentially the same fuels, albeit for the addition of the red dye and chemical markers.

As so, red diesel is mainly used in industries which do not require vehicles to operate on public roads. This includes agricultural businesses, the construction sector, mining and many other industries who rely on diesel-powered machinery and equipment.

It can also be used in diesel-powered backup generators to save money on the fuel duty. So anywhere that requires backup generators such as data centres, transport companies and the public sector.

Is red diesel illegal to use on public roads?

For the majority of use cases, filling a vehicle with red diesel with the intention of driving on public roads is illegal. This is considered to be tax evasion and penalties and fines will be imposed if caught.

You can read about the offences and penalties for using red diesel imposed by HMRC on the website.

However, so long as you do not intend to use red diesel to travel any further than 1.5km on public roads whilst travelling between different areas of land which are occupied by the same person. And then for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry, this is deemed to be acceptable use by HMRC.

Can red diesel be used to grit public roads?

If you have a vehicle which has been constructed or temporarily adapted and solely used for gritting public roads to deal with frost, ice or snow. Then there is no restriction in its purpose so long as this is all the vehicle is used for.

If your gritting vehicles need to be moved from one location to another, you do not need to wait until you have to grit the roads before moving them. Nor do you need to switch from red diesel to red diesel in order to move your vehicles.

HMRC’s regulation state that they are happy for you to move these vehicles from one location to another in order to prepare for the cold weather.

You are also allowed to use red diesel in these types of vehicle is you are moving your gritter from location to location in readiness for the winter weather, for gritting training, or going to and from where the vehicle9(s) will be maintained or tested.

You can learn more here on the website.

Can tractors gritting public roads use red diesel?

Since the 1st November 2013, farmers have been allowed to use agricultural vehicles to grit the roads in order to clear them of frost, ice and snow. The rules were changed as was considered to be problematic for farmers to switch between red diesel and white diesel in order to grit the public roads.

The issue for many rural roads and villages is that they were never considered high priority gritting areas for many municipal gritting authorities.

As so, many villages and rural locations were often left cut off until farmers were able to get their tractors onto the roads. This would have been easier and faster for those running on the red diesel but did leave them open to prosecution prior to 2013.

Then for those who were willing to make the switch to white diesel, this would have proved to be more time consuming and costly due to the additional costs involved in using standard road diesel.

So, it’s been a welcome change for both farmers and those within living and working within these rural communities who rely on farmers to clear the access roads.

You can learn more here on the (1) website and (2) website.

Will using red diesel damage my car?

If your car was manufactured to use regular road diesel, as opposed to petrol for instance, then there should not be any issues with you using red diesel in your car as a direct replacement for road diesel.

However, if you plan to use your car on public roads, you do so at your own risk as this is not going to be considered legal justification for doing so by HMRC if caught on a public road. This could lead to you being fined and/or prosecuted.

You can learn more here on the website.

Can the red dye be removed from red diesel?

As a responsible fuel supplier, we would not suggest you follow this up any further.

But since this appears to be a popular question online, we’ll answer it and say that yes, technically you could remove the red dye from red diesel through various processes.

However, we won’t explain how the process works, but we will suggest that you do not even try this as it is a highly illegal process and not something anybody should attempt to do.

The process is known as fuel laundering and could lead to a prison sentence if you were caught.

Request a quote for red diesel

If you’d like to learn more or discuss your own red diesel requirements, you can do so by calling our red diesel fuel experts today on 0330 678 0880.

What is the history of red diesel?

1921 – Until 1921, Customs Duty was charged on imports of motor spirits. On 1/1/1921 this was abolished and replaced with excise duty and vehicle licenses.

Fire engines kept by local authorities, ambulances and road rollers were exempt. Rates applied to different vehicles appeared to have been assessed on likely damage done to roads.

Diesel fuel was cheap as it was not considered to be a road fuel – cars and other road vehicles tended to run on petrol. Subsequently, the use of diesel in lorries, buses and other road vehicles grew.

1934 – In 1934, local authority road and gully cleansing vehicles were exempted from excise duty on licenses. Rates for off-road vehicles were reduced.

1935 – Due to the growth in the numbers of diesel-powered road vehicles, it was recognised that a separate rate for ‘off-road’ vehicles was needed. From 1935, road vehicles were forbidden to use rebated fuels – and penalties for such misuse were introduced to ensure equality between petrol and diesel engine road vehicles.

Off-road vehicles benefited from the lower rate including railways, thus incentivising rail transport over road transport. This is probably where today’s concessions for rebated fuels originate.

The categories and uses of vehicle permitted to use rebated fuel were gradually added to over the years to reflect changes in machinery used and amount of road use.

1947 – Mobile cranes used only on roads as cranes given the reduction in excise duty.

1949 – Tractors and other agricultural machinery, trench digging vehicles on public roads not hauling any load given special rates.

1950 – Concession extended to vehicles operating in woodland and to vehicles operating within fifteen miles of farms or woodland engaged in hauling between farms, estates

1952 – In 1952 legislation expressly stated that no road vehicles other road rollers and other specifically exempted vehicles were entitled to use rebated heavy oils.

“In 1942, for the benefit of persons engaged in agriculture, the rebate was restored to the pre-1935 position on heavy oils used as fuel for certain agricultural tractors and engines…

There were several other war-time extensions…” The list of exempted vehicles included ploughing engines, tractors, agricultural engines, mechanical diggers, trenchers, mobile cranes and mowing machines.

1959 – In 1959 the list of exempted vehicles was further extended to include vehicles used solely for conveying road construction equipment, as well as vehicles passing from one part of land to another via roads.

Auxiliary engines on vehicles allowed to use rebated oil (as a result of lobbying especially by concrete lorry operators). Emphasis was placed on the fact that vehicles licensed as goods vehicles were not exempted.

It was around this time that marking was introduced to allow oil to be sent out at a rebated rate for these off-road and exempted vehicles, rather than requiring users to reclaim duty paid.

With the growth in the number of eligible vehicles and the growing differential between the price of road fuel and rebated fuel, the introduction of marking allowed Customs to identify rebated fuel and check for its use in road vehicles, and ensured the administrative burden was kept to a minimum by allowing users to buy at the lower rate.

1961 – The use of red dye and chemical markers in all diesel fuel sold as red diesel became a requirement to help the authorities to distinguish the low duty fuel in vehicles used on public roads.

1960s – The list of exempted vehicles was further expanded and refined, notably in the 1960s, adding snow ploughs and defining construction vehicles such as ‘works trucks’ and ‘dumper trucks’.

Schedule 1 to the Hydrocarbon Oils Duties Act 1979 (HODA) sets out the current list of ‘exempted vehicles’ (those that are allowed to use rebated fuels when using public roads in certain circumstances).

The marking requirements are set out in Regulation 18 of the Hydrocarbon Oil Regulations 1973 (Currently being updated to include the new ‘Euromarker’ to be introduced from 1 August 2002).

European law requirements of red diesel

Directive 92/81/EEC sets out a number of areas in which the Members States may apply reduced rates of excise duty.

  • Article 8 (1) require Member States to exempt certain uses of oils from harmonised excise duty. These are: fuels not used as motor or heating fuels, aviation fuels, fuels used in ships in Community waters, other than private pleasure craft and blast furnace fuels.
  • Article 8(2) allows the Member States to apply reduced rates or exemptions in respect of electricity production, navigation of inland waterways, for passenger transport and freight, for pilot projects to develop environmentally friendly fuels, for development of aircraft and ships, for use in agriculture, horticulture and fisheries, and; for dredging.
  • Article 8(3) allows Member States to apply reductions in excise duty on gas oil for vehicles intended for use off the public roadway and in respect of construction and public works vehicles.

Oils for such uses must either be released at full duty rate and the difference reclaimed by the end-user OR must be marked before release at the rebated rate. The introduction of the Euromarker means that all oil used in off-road and exempted vehicles must be marked with Solvent Yellow 124.

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