Using Red Diesel When Gritting the Roads – Know the Rules

This article has been written for anyone who uses, or intends to use, tractors and other agricultural vehicles for gritting public roads during periods of ice, frost or snow.

We are a nationwide supplier of red diesel with over 170 years of experience in the fuels and lubricants industry, so as the temperature drops we get asked the following question a lot;

“Can you use red diesel/gas oil in tractors that are being used for gritting?”

Red diesel use in tractors (and other agricultural vehicles) – the background

Agricultural vehicles are currently permitted to use red diesel/gas oil for off-road activities as part of their daily operations. Public road usage is restricted, although not prohibited. These restrictions include factors like the distance from the registered business address and the activity being undertaken. You will find the details in full at the HMRC website.

Prior to a change in legislation in 2013, only purpose built gritting vehicles were permitted to use red diesel/gas oil when treating public roads. The issue here was that these gritters were predominately deployed on priority routes and larger carriageways, leaving smaller access roads and rural routes untreated.

If an agricultural vehicle chose to grit these smaller public roads themselves, they would be legally required to change the fuel they were currently using i.e. remove red diesel and replace it with standard white diesel (DERV).

Not only was this hugely impractical and time consuming, it was also open to great ambiguity. The dye in red diesel is stubborn and even small traces of it in a fuel tank will contaminate any white diesel that is put it the same tank, making it appear that the farmer or countryside worker was breaking the law. The result was that many roads just remained untreated and villages and rural businesses were cut off.

A 2012 consultation with farming unions, rural committees and official gritting authorities, established that a law change would be hugely popular.

Can farming vehicles now use red diesel/gas oil for gritting?

Following the 2012 consultation, plans were announced to change the law for three categories of agricultural vehicles; tractors (Cat.2), light agricultural vehicles (Cat.3) and agricultural material handlers (Cat. 3a).

In 2013, ‘gritting’ was added to the list of permitted activities for these vehicles, in accordance with Schedule 1 HODA (Hydrocarbon Oils Duty Act 1979).

All three can now use red diesel/gas oil on public roads when treating the roads with grit during periods of ice, frost and/or snow. However, red diesel is not permitted for gritting on private land, such as a staff car park.

To purchase your red diesel for this winter, our experienced and friendly team of experts would be happy to discuss your needs – call today on 01282 775431. Alternatively, we can call you at a time more convenient to you.