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Can I Put Off Road Diesel in my Truck?

Can I Put Off Road Diesel in my Truck?

we will discuss off-road or red diesel, its comparison with regular green diesel, its usage in trucks, steps for its legal use, fraudulent activities for its usage in trucks, and other related aspects.

Can I Put Off Road Diesel in my Truck? Yes, your truck engine can operate on off-road diesel as it has similar properties to regular diesel except its red-colored appearance to distinguish it.

However, it is illegal to drive your truck with off-road diesel on highways. Some people use fraudulent activities like decoloration to make it suitable for on-road applications. The government is taking strict measures to cope with such tax evasion.

Can I Put Off Road Diesel in my Truck?

Off-road diesel is a regular diesel with a red-colored dye added to it to differentiate it from regular on-road diesel.

It is a low price as different taxes are not a part of its rate for off-road applications, including cranes, construction machinery, agricultural machinery used by farmers, and other equipment.

Its usage in on-road vehicles like cars and trucks is illegal, and tax authorities can put hefty fines if somebody gets caught using it on the road.

People do fraudulent activities to use it in their vehicles by decoloring it or mixing it with regular fuel to avoid detection.

However, the tax department has developed mechanisms to identify its illegal use.

Why off-road diesel is dyed or colored?

It is a legal requirement by two state-owned departments, including Inland revenue services (IRS), responsible for taxation, and the environmental protection agency (EPA), accountable for ecological preservation.

The main reasons are to stop tax evasion by using off-road diesel in on-road vehicles. EPA requires distinguishing low sulfur diesel from ultra-low sulfur diesel by adding a red-colored dye in the diesel.

The red-colored dye is a synthetic chemical in a solid form that is soluble in diesel.

It has a unique behavior in that it is insoluble in water. Its quantity to be added in the diesel is according to the limits set by IRS and EPA. 

Other names for off-road diesel are red diesel, colored diesel, dyed diesel, and tractor diesel due to added dye. 

Off-road diesel vs regular diesel

Off-road diesel is essentially the same as regular diesel except for its color and low price.

We will discuss a few primary aspects of red diesel in comparison with regular diesel. 

Chemical Properties

Chemical properties, including heat of combustion, chemical composition, flash temperature, quality factors like sulfur content, water, and particulate content, are vital for using a chemical as fuel in your vehicle’s engine.

It has similar qualities as regular diesel except for slightly high sulfur content.

Therefore, its usage in your truck has no drawbacks from an operational or qualitative point of view. 


To distinguish off-road diesel from regular diesel, petroleum refineries add a synthetic red-colored dye that turns it to red.

While in regular diesel, you will find on-road fuel stations will be colorless or light green. The green color is also the result of adding a dye by the distributors.


Red diesel smells precisely the same as regular diesel. The only difference is the added dye that changes its color to red.


The government has withdrawn taxes on this while you have to pay a hefty amount in terms of duties and road taxes for on-road diesel. Therefore, red diesel is 30-35% cheaper than the regular one.


The government has exempted it from various state and federal duties. Therefore you have to pay a rebate amount of tax on its purchase.

In comparison, regular diesel is much costlier due to the USA’s inland revenue services department’s state and federal duties.

The exact rate of tax varies from state to state according to fuel consumption.

Is it legal to use off-road diesel in trucks?

It has a red-colored dye added to it for its identification. You can use it in your truck until you don’t come on the road and get detected by tax authorities.

The government restricts its use for on-road purposes like heavy machinery that doesn’t come on-road.

However, its use is illegal for on-road vehicles due to tax rebates on its purchase by the federal government and states.

People use it in their trucks to save money in terms of tax evasion that is a crime.

For using red fuel for off-road applications, you need to register yourself with the IRS to get a license.

Furthermore, you have to submit a monthly report about the quantity of fuel used and relevant equipment information.

Purchase the diesel from an authentic dealer having a license certificate from the taxation department. Keep a record of all the bills as proof of the quantity of fuel purchased.

Is there any punishment for its usage in trucks?

There are specific penalties for the usage of dyed diesel in vehicles like trucks. The competent authority in this situation is the excise and taxation department and the EPA to use banned fuel in on-road vehicles.

If you get caught with off-road diesel, you can get punishment in the form of a hefty fine, confiscation of your automobile, and in extreme cases, you can go to jail for a few months to years due to tax fraud.

The extent of the penalty can vary from state to state and according to the crime’s nature.

The maximum limit for the fine can be up to a few thousand dollars or according to the tank’s fuel at a rate of tens of dollars per gallon. 

Conditions by the state for the usage of off-road diesel in trucks

The use of red diesel for on-road vehicles like trucks is allowed in the following two conditions:

● The state has declared an emergency, and there is a shortage of regular diesel supply.

● In natural disasters like storms, earthquakes, and hurricanes, red diesel is the only available fuel due to roads’ unavailability.

Practices of off-road fuel frauds for use in trucks

Some people illegally use, or few petroleum distributors do fraudulent activities for the illegal sale of red diesel to truck owners on highways. Two of the commonly used activities are: 

Mixing it with regular diesel

Fuel pump owners mix thousands of gallons of red diesel with regular diesel to dilute its color.

They sell this fuel at discounted rates to attract customers. In this way, they commit the crime of tax evasion and fraud with people by selling them illegal diesel at higher costs.

Therefore, always inspect the fuel color by yourself and record bill receipts from the fuel station.

Remove its Color

The dye used to add color to the red fuel is a synthetic chemical. People use different chemicals to remove the dye from this diesel.

Mixing small amounts of acid or a base acts as a bleaching agent and decolors the fuel. Other bleaching agents like activated carbon are also in use to remove the dye from the diesel. 

How to detect fraudulent use of off-road diesel in trucks?

The government has invested in research and arrangements to stop tax evasion and fraudulent activities.

It is an effort to increase the tax collection used for public welfare activities. New chromatography tests and techniques used in the laboratory and tax officials can detect off-road diesel illegal use. 

Chemical test

Government adds a new chemical marker in the off-road fuel that is difficult to remove.

Taxation officials use specific detectors installed on vehicles to detect chemical additives that prove illegal use of this diesel in vehicles running on highways.

Visual inspection of the fuel tank, filter, engine

The use of red diesel in your truck leaves red marks in the fuel tank, fuel filters, and different engine parts.

You will find trained IRS officials to detect various symptoms of usage of red fuel in your vehicle. Therefore, they can quickly identify if your truck has used this fuel or not.

Special instruments/UV light to detect the dye

Digital instruments are available to determine the presence of red pigment in the fuel.

A simple tool is flashing UV light in your fuel tank, and it will identify the color of the diesel.

If it detects the red pigment, you have to pay hefty fines.

Are there any maintenance issues with using off-road diesel in your truck?

Till 2014, the use of low sulfur diesel having sulfur content up to 500ppm was allowed for off-road vehicles.

However, they have further restricted this limit to less than 15ppm, which is the same for on-road vehicles.

The only restriction is its usage for on-road applications is illegal except under exceptional circumstances.  

Our Responsibility as Citizens

Our responsibility is to help the government in tax evasion activities as collected taxes are used for new highways and repairing activities.

According to a rough estimate, a considerable sum of several million dollars, the government loses in terms of fuel tax revenue due to its illegal sale.

Therefore you should observe the following practices as a responsible citizen.

● Fuel the vehicle in your presence.

● Observe the color of fuel from the fueling hose.

● In case of any ambiguity, take a fuel sample in some plastic bottle or observe remaining water droplets from the fueling pipe.

● Avoid fueling from unauthorized pumps on highways having tampered labels from the IRS for colored diesel.

● In case of any suspicious activity, contact the helpline of IRS or taxation authorities.

● Always remember to demand the Bill receipt for the record of the supplier.

● In case of low prices or special discounts, visually check the color of fuel on highways.

Where to buy off-road diesel?

There are several certified companies for the distribution of red fuel to customers.

Availability of this diesel is abundant in rural or agricultural areas where its usage is enormous.

You may not find it on regular fuel stations on highways due to extra paperwork for certification with the IRS.

Large contractors and farmers order it from distribution companies in bulk and store it for long-term usage.


You can use red diesel in your truck if you don’t come on the road. Therefore, use it in applications dedicated to off-road work.

Suppose excise and taxation officials find you with off-road diesel in your truck on the highway.

In that case, they can impose hefty fines and severe punishment for tax evasion and fraudulent activity. 

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