What are the penalties for red diesel use?

Ashleigh Wight
October 10, 2017


Misuse of rebated fuel, such as red diesel, in a truck or van could attract hefty fines and sometimes a prison sentence, so it is important that operators understand where it can and cannot be used.

What is red diesel?

Diesel used only in vehicles that are operated solely off-road or in machinery and attracts a lower rate of excise duty than diesel used on the road. Such fuel contains chemical markers which give it a red colour, therefore distinguishing it from fuel where excise duty is payable. The marker also stains the vehicle’s fuel tank.

Which vehicles can use red diesel?

Vehicles and machinery that are permitted to use rebated fuel include:

  • Agricultural tractors, plant and machinery
  • Mobile cranes
  • Digging machines
  • Snow ploughs
  • Gritters
  • Road rollers and surfacing vehicles

HMRC has compiled a full list of the vehicles that can use red diesel.

What powers do the authorities have when enforcing red diesel rules?

HMRC officers have the power to:

  • Examine any vehicle and its fuel
  • Require the vehicle’s owner or driver to open the fuel tank for inspection
  • Require the vehicle’s owner to produce documentation relating to the vehicle
  • Enter and inspect any premises, apart from private houses, to inspect, test and sample fuel
  • Ask anybody concerned with the sale, purchase or disposal of rebated fuel for their documentation

What are the penalties for using red diesel illegally?

Vehicles found to be using rebated fuel illegally may be seized by the authorities. The vehicle’s owner will then have to pay a fee for the vehicle’s release, which would include a penalty for the offences (up to a £250 fine for each offence), along with an amount to cover the duty owed.

Serious offences may result in the issue of an unlimited fine to the operator and a prison sentence of up to two years.

About the Author


Ashleigh Wight

Ashleigh is a former news reporter for Commercial Motor and Motor Transport and currently the editor of OHW+ and HR and wellbeing editor at Personnel Today.

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