Many people have heard of red diesel and probably know that farmers use it, but may not know exactly what it is or what the laws about its use are. We’ve put together this fact sheet to help you understand more about red diesel.
What is Red Diesel/Gas Oil?
- Red diesel is mainly used for vehicles that are used in the construction, marine and agricultural industries.
- It is sometimes referred to as “gas oil”
- The duty (tax) paid on red diesel is considerably lower than “white” diesel (the diesel you normally use in your car) at 11p per litre as opposed to 57.95p per litre. *
- Chemically the two products are the same. The red dye that is added to white diesel is only to make detection of the illegal use of red diesel easier.
Where can Gas Oil be used?
- The rules about what types of vehicle can use are very complex so, if in doubt, refer to the HMRC documentation here.
- There are very strict rules about using red diesel and it must not be used for general road vehicles.
- Unlicensed vehicles that have never been used on public roads and are only used on private land can use it. It also possible to use licensed vehicles as long as a SORN is completed and the vehicle is only driven on private land.
- Agricultural vehicles can use red diesel as long as they are being used for agricultural, horticultural or forestry purposes. There are many regulations as to what is classified as an agricultural vehicle and the distances that can be travelled so it is always advisable to contact HMRC if unsure.
- Gas Oil is used in the marine industry both for commercial and for leisure craft BUT with leisure boats, full duty must be paid on the element of the fuel used for propulsion and the boat can only be used in UK waters. The EU in 2013 announced it was challenging the use of red diesel in leisure boats in the UK and this is presently being contested. See here for more information.
- JCBs, excavators and cranes used in the construction industry can use red diesel but there are restrictions on how they can be used and distances travelled so it is advisable to refer to the HMRC documentation on this.
What are the penalties for using Red Diesel illegally?
The penalties can vary depending on the severity of the crime and if the authorities are obstructed when trying to test for red diesel. At the lower end of the scale, the use of red diesel will be treated as a civil offence and will usually incur a fine of several hundred pounds. However, where obstruction is a factor or if the offence is considered to be more serious, it can be treated as a criminal offence leading to unlimited fines and/or a prison sentence.
- Like any type of fuel, prices fluctuate throughout the year and generally go up in the winter due to higher demand for oil.
- You can track red diesel prices with the BoilerJuice price chart and find out the best time to buy.
As of 1st November 2013 the HMRC announced a change in the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act (HODA) that adds gritting of public roads as a permitted activity of tractors, light agricultural vehicles and agricultural material handlers by vehicles fuelled by red diesel. This is a change from previous years where only purpose-built gritters were allowed to use it when gritting.