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What Is The Difference Between Clear And Dyed Diesel Fuel?

Monday, July 13th, 2015
question marks representing frequently asked questions about diesel fuel

Updated on 10/23/2020


Diesel fuel was once sold without any dyes added to it. The government began requiring this fuel to be sold with three different colors in the 1990s: clear, red, and blue. The coloring is part of an effort by two federal agencies, as well as Congress, to clean the air and collect fuel taxes. If you purchase dyed diesel for any reason, there is legal information regarding this resource that you should know.

Clear diesel fuel

Diesel fuel sold without dye added, known as clear diesel, is a road-grade product that is available to the general public at regular gas stations. This type of gasoline is meant for use by the vehicles that travel the roads everyday like cars, trucks, and SUVs. Clear diesel fuel can also be used in boats.

Clear diesel has low sulfur levels and is legally taxable. Any vehicle that has a diesel engine and is licensed by the state for on-road use must use the clear fuel.

Dyed diesel fuel

Most dyed diesel sold in the U.S. comes with a red coloring and is not usually available for purchase by the public. However, you may occasionally see this product at a fuel station. By law, red diesel fuel is only sold for use in off-road vehicles like tractors, heavy construction equipment, and generators. Because it is not supposed to be used for on-road purposes, this fuel is not taxed within the United States.

Diesel that is designated for use by U.S. government vehicles is dyed blue instead of red. This color variation helps to keep clear fuel used by the general public separate from that used by government on-road vehicles.

A common misconception about dyed diesel fuel is that it causes loss of performance when used. There is no proven link between the different dyes and lost performance because the chemical make-up of dyed and clear diesel is the same.

Legal information about dyed diesel fuel

Because dyed diesel is non-taxed, federal and state governments are strict about it not being used in on-road vehicles. The laws surrounding the use of dyed fuel range from financial penalties to significant jail time.

  • Distributors cannot knowingly transport dyed diesel fuel with the intention of supplying it to on-road vehicle owners. Also, retail locations that carry this product cannot knowingly sell it for use in an on-road vehicle.
  • Retail customers cannot knowingly use dyed diesel in an on-road vehicle. A law enforcement officer can take a sample from any gas tank to check the fuel if given a reason. If dye is found in an on-road vehicle, the penalties can run into the thousands of dollars.
  • Removing dye from fuel is a criminal offense at both the state and federal levels. The dyes leave behind minute traces that lab testing can identify, so it isn’t effective anyway. Penalties for selling or using dyed diesel with the dye removed are quite serious.

How to know that your diesel fuel is legal

Whether you buy for your fleet or are an owner/operator purchasing from a gas station, you need to know your diesel is legal. Here are some tips that can help.

  1. Work with a reputable supplier. They will ensure that every product they sell is legal.
  2. When filling up at the pump, check that the labels are clear on which is regular and which is dyed.
  3. Always be aware of fraudulent activity. Check that nothing at the pumps has been tampered with and check your receipts.
  4. If you have ordered from a supplier, always check that you are getting what you requested.

If you are looking for a fuel supplier, contact the professionals at Kendrick Oil Company today. You can call us at (800) 299-3991 or contact a Member of our Team. We offer a variety of Fuels and Services throughout Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Louisiana.