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The Dos and Don’ts of Red Diesel
May 04, 2018

Of all the fuels we sell here at Rix Petroleum, red diesel is probably the one which we receive the most questions about. This is partly because of the wealth of legislation that governs its use, and partly because it has a number of different names. So, we’ve decided to write a quick guide to the fuel, giving you all the information you need to know. Let’s get started with the obvious question … what exactly is red diesel?


What is red diesel?

Red diesel is a fuel used to run ‘off road’ vehicles, particularly tractors and other agricultural vehicles. Although it is essentially the same as standard road diesel – known as white diesel – it attracts around 40% less fuel duty, meaning it is significantly cheaper to buy. This enables businesses that use it to increase profitability due to a reduction in fuel costs.

However, it is illegal to use red diesel when driving on public roads in all but a small handful of cases. Doing so is considered tax evasion and anyone caught driving on a public road using red diesel would be likely to face charges. The fuel is dyed red so it is easily distinguishable from standard diesel, hence its name.

What vehicles can use red diesel?

Red diesel is suitable for all diesel-powered vehicles because it has the same chemical make up as white diesel. However, because it cannot be used on public roads, it is usually only found in tractors, off-road vehicles and other construction or agricultural plant, such as grain dryers, which remain on private land.

Are there exemptions when red diesel can be used on the road?

There are a small minority of exemptions. Firstly, if a farmer is travelling between fields he or she can drive up to 1.5km on a public road without committing an offence. Also, if farmers are using their tractors for gritting in bad weather, they are allowed to use red diesel. However, under all other circumstances, white diesel must be used for road travel.

Is red diesel known by any other names?

Yes, another common name for red diesel is gas oil. However, just to add to the confusion, the fuel has a host of other names too, including tractor diesel, 35 second fuel oil, and even cherry juice and cherry red on account of its colour.

Is red diesel the same as home heating oil?

Just to add even further confusion to the whole issue of red diesel, the answer to this depends on whereabouts in the world you are. In the UK, red diesel and heating oil are different fuels. The majority of home heating oil used in the UK, and interestingly, Japan, is kerosene, which is a distilled form of crude oil. It provides a cleaner and more efficient burn than gas oil. However, in most of the rest of the world, including Europe and the USA, red diesel is used as home heating oil, so in those places, they are one and the same.

So, that’s an introduction to red diesel. If you want more information, get in touch and speak to one of our agricultural experts or click the button below.

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