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Can you use Red Diesel (Gas Oil) in Agricultural Vehicles when Gritting Public Roads?

With over 70 years’ experience in the industry, we’re experts at delivering fuels and lubricants, including red diesel (also known as gas oil) is one of our most popular products, especially during the winter to businesses and homes across the UK. However, as many users of red diesel in vehicles whether that be in farming vehicles or rail transport, one thing is always made clear and that is that even if one of these vehicles is registered for use on public roads, they cannot run on red diesel when doing so.

For many years, farmers have assisted the local councils and their own communities by helping to clear roads of snow with their heavy-duty vehicles and helping to free stranded vehicles. However, because of the law on red diesel usage being the way it was, it was paramount that the vehicles owners switched the fuel in their fuel tanks from red diesel and replaced this with white diesel before doing their civic service to help out their local communities to avoid running afoul of the law.

This, of course, could be quite a time consuming task, especially in the freezing temperatures they were braving to help out with. As so, it’s been a long time coming, but we are pleased to say that common sense prevailed and agricultural vehicles can now use the fuel to grit public roads. This, of course, saves time with farmers no longer having to change the fuel in their tanks, but also means they’re not being penalised by using regular road diesel to help their local councils to reach roads and communities that would otherwise be cut off from main roads, towns and cities without their help.

Using red diesel/gas oil for gritting in agricultural vehicles – why the law changed

Agricultural vehicles are allowed to use red diesel (gas oil) for off-road business-related activity, which has been the case for a number of years. However, powering these vehicles with the same fuel for use on public roads is heavily restricted and depends on the distance travelled and the task undertaken (HMRC can provide full details).

Before 2013, only purpose-built ‘gritters’ were legally allowed to use the heavily rebated red diesel (gas oil) to treat public roads during cold weather.

However, due to their size and since they are mainly deployed by local councils and Highway Agencies, smaller access roads and rural routes were left untouched. This meant that many people were simply cut off when the cold weather set in.

If a farmer or countryside worker was to use their agricultural vehicle to spread grit on these roads, they would be legally required to empty their tank of any red diesel and then fill up with standard white diesel (DERV).

Not only is this highly impractical at a time when a quick response is required, but it can also leave the door open to uncertainty. The red dye in gas oil is persistent and only the smallest amount of fuel in a tank can contaminate white diesel, making it appear that the driver is flouting legalisation.

Red diesel/gas oil in agricultural vehicles for gritting – what is the law now?

After consultation with farming unions, rural representatives and local authorities, a change in the law was agreed with effect from 2013.

The act of ‘gritting’ was added to the list of legal activities under the Hydrocarbon Oils Duty Act, 1974 (Schedule 1), meaning, for these vehicles, gritting on public roads was made legal.

With the controversial rules that surround red diesel, it can get a little confusing knowing what vehicles and machinery we can legally use it in.

After a community consultation period, HMRC changed red diesel rules in 2013, to allow operators of tractors, light farming vehicles and agriculture material handlers to use red diesel in their vehicles when gritting public roads.

Previously farming vehicles were only allowed to use red diesel for off-road purposes. Only purpose-built gritters were allowed to use red diesel while gritting public roads.

HMRC specified that there was a positive response from the public to the proposed red diesel rules change during the discussion.

The Deputy Manager for transportation taxes at HMRC specified that making this change is evidence that the organisation understands the desires of rural communities.

Since the rollout of the regulations, multipurpose vehicles can now be used to maintain access throughout periods of bad weather. This will bring substantial benefits to people and companies in cities and towns normally outside the range of public gritters. This will allow everyday life to continue and make the roads safer.

With the winter months closing in, people in rural areas are pleased tractors and other vehicles can use red diesel as whilst they are gritting roads to improve transport links in bad conditions.

HMRC acknowledged that these are frequently the most appropriate vehicles for ice clearance and gritting in isolated areas and it consequently makes sense to allow them to use red diesel as a type of fuel.

Farmers were formerly prevented from using tractors and additional agricultural vehicles – which are typically fuelled with red diesel – to react swiftly to adverse conditions.

We always advise purchasing your winter fuel as early as possible. Give our team friendly and knowledgeable team a call today on 0330 123 1444 to discuss how we can help you. You can also request a quote and purchase red diesel using the same number.

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