What is Reefer Fuel and How is it Different Than Regular Diesel for Trucks?

What Is Reefer Fuel?

Understanding Reefer Fuel and Its Uses

Reefer fuel is a fuel that is marked with a red dye in the United States. Like you are aware, on-road fuel diesel, and gasoline is usually subjected to a tax.

However, reefer fuel that can be identified by a distinctive red color is a form of diesel that is considered to be an off-road diesel or smartly called reefer diesel!

The red die marks it as fuel for off-road vehicles and equipment and therefore, doesn’t have road taxes included in the cost.

To clear the red die, would require a lot of fuel to dilute, and therefore, it will be very obvious when put in an on-road truck.

Reefer fuel is considered to be offroad equipment as it doesn’t power anything driving on a road.

If you happen to use on-road clear fuel in a reefer trailer or van, you should track and keep the receipt for the on-road fuel being used in the off-road unit as you can file for the fuel tax back. You will be required to show proof and therefore, you should consult your accountant.

Tax authorities usually check for vehicles using the fuel on the road. They do so using a black light that can spot any residue presence of the dye in the fuel and the major engine compartment.

The fuel is commonly used for agriculture use, construction fuelling, and other offroad equipment that aren’t used on the highway where fuel taxes is necessary.

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The Peculiar Role of Reefer Fuel

Reefer fuel is meant to be used for the refrigerator unit of the heavy truck. It’s supposed to keep the trailer cool and should not be used for road purposes. This is because the on-road fuel is subjected to tax.

Since it’s used to keep the trailer cool and not to run the truck, it isn’t subjected to the on-road tax. This fuel is usually dyed to ensure that it’s untaxed and is only used for off-road fuel.

Using reefer fuel on the road is illegal and can lead to a fine of more than $10,000 depending on the state. Many states work very hard to prevent this type of tax avoidance.

On West Coast, the fuel is ultra-low sulfur fuel, meaning that it would not cause any maintenance problems when used in an engine. Depending on how old the fuel is, it can be low sulfur or high sulfur fuel.

Difference Between Reefer Fuel and Tractor Fuel

Reefer fuel refers to fuel that is used on refrigeration trucks. As an offroad fuel, it can also be used in construction, heating, agriculture, and other off-road equipment that isn’t used on the highway where the government requires fuel tax.

Tractor fuel on the other hand is the standard number 2 diesel. It’s a low-grade fuel that is in between gasoline and diesel when the distillation of crude oil is happening.

This refining technique that was developed during the World War 11 was turned into a more useful fuel. Power fuel was considered a higher grade of tractor fuel.

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Reefer Diesel  / Fuel FAQ

Reefer fuel Vs tractor fuel – same or different?

Refer fuel is the off-road fuel while tractor fuel is the number two diesel. You can only use reefer fuel on a pickup if it’s used for off-road purposes.

If you ever plan to use it on a public road, including crossing the street and the dye is found in the vehicle, you will liable to a fine that may rise to $10,000.

If you have a big farm or closed facility and you don’t intend to use the vehicle for on-road purposes, you can use the reefer fuel in the vehicle.

Are diesel and reefer the same?

The normal fuel whether gasoline or diesel is usually taxed. However, reefer fuel that has a distinct red color is a form of offroad diesel.

Will reefer fuel hurt pickup trucks?

No. The fuel will work well on your truck. However, if your truck uses high sulfur or low sulfur fuel and your vehicle has a particulate trap, you will face maintenance challenges with the emission system of the truck.

But generally, reefer fuel is safe for your truck and the only reason why it is dyed red is so that the government officials will easily notice it when it’s used on road.

Take note that the ultralow sulfur market available today is usually below 15 parts per million. Therefore, if your pickup truck or other equipment needs ultralow sulfur fuel, you may need to confirm the fuel you are using.

There are some types of low sulfur dials (with less than 500 parts per million sulfur fuel) and some high sulfur diesel with more than 500 parts for million sulfur that are still available in the marketplace. It is commonly used for boiler systems, heating oil, marine, and locomotive applications.

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What kind of fuel goes in a reefer trailer?

A refer trailer uses reefer fuel. Some truck stops may have different tanks for offroad fuel.

Is reefer fuel taxable?

Reefer unit that uses reefer fuel isn’t taxed like other kinds of fuel. Therefore, this kind of fuel isn’t included in IFTA filing when it’s used to power a trailer’s refrigeration unit. When powering your reefer unit, ensure that you use a different receipt for the reefer fuel.

Is diesel more expensive at truck stops?

The cost of diesel is usually higher at truck stops as compared to the normal fuelling stops.

Diesel prices are also higher on the West Coast, particularly In California, as compared to other regions of the country as a result of supply problems and taxes.

Since the area is relatively isolated, it is usually more expensive to supply from other regions when there is an outage in a refinery.

Is reefer fuel off-road diesel?

Reefer trailers are considered to be some form of off-road equipment. This means that they use offroad fuel as the engine isn’t powering a unit that is driving on the road. The trailers often use ultra-low sulfur diesel, which could be dyed or not.

Are Diesel And Reefer The Same?

How big is a reefer tank?

Reefers trucks are usually 20” wide and have a length of 24”. The trucks have a capacity of 250 to 350 liters.

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How many hours will a reefer unit run on a tank of fuel?

A reefer unit is usually on a closed-loop system not attached to the truck and therefore, the fuel efficiency isn’t affected by the driving habits.

However, if a reefer unit is poorly maintained, this could increase its fuel consumption. When running under normal conditions, a reefer tank with a capacity of 50 gallons can last for 4 to 5 days.

Is there a difference between truck fuel and reefer fuel?

The key difference is the road tax. Truck fuel is used on-road while reefer fuel is used offroad. Dyed fuel is an indication that taxes haven’t been paid and that the fuel should not be used in powering a vehicle on public roads.

Truck fuel usually has greenish or clear color to indicate that it’s an ultralow sulfur diesel. It’s also an indication that the on-road fuel taxes associated with using it on the highway have been paid.

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How much is highway tax for truck and reefer trailers?

Fuel tax usually differs depending on the state and local municipality.

The federal highway tax for trucks is $550 and is payable on all vehicles that have a gross weight of 55,000 pounds and are operated 5000 miles or 75,000 miles if it’s a logging vehicle on the public highway.

There is no fuel tax on reefer fuel and isn’t part of the IFTA filing if it’s used to power a trailer’s refrigeration unit.

The only tax applicable to the fuel is the sales tax. In some states such as Washington, there is no sales tax on reefer fuel since they charge road charges.

The petroleum distributor may also put a small levy of less than $0.1  on reefer fuel bought at a wholesale terminal level. There are no taxes beyond that on reefer fuel.

Is reefer and diesel fuel the same?

No, reefer fuel is different from diesel fuel. It is red in color and it is considered a special form of diesel. It is cheaper to use than regular diesel.

What is reefer diesel?

Reefer diesel is a special fuel for reefer trucks. It is red in color and it is an off-road fuel that is not taxed like other fuels. Because it is not taxed, it is cheaper than ordinary fuels. It is commonly used for fueling off-road equipment, agricultural equipment and construction equipment.

What is a reefer tank?

A reefer tank is a special fuel tank for reefer fuel. It is usually a massive tank because it is the fuel in it that is used by a reefer truck to refrigerate goods or items.

How much does reefer fuel cost?

Reefer fuel or off-road dyed diesel goes for $2.99 per gallon. It is much cheaper than the on-road diesel because it is not taxed.

How big is a reefer fuel tank?

Most reefer vehicles carry about 50 gallons of reefer fuel. This often lasts between four to five days.

How much fuel does a reefer unit use per hour?

Reefer units use between 0.5 and 1 gallon of reefer diesel per hour.

How long does reefer fuel last?

It depends on the truck. Usually reefer fuel lasts between four to five days. However, if there is frequent opening of the reefer unit,.you may need to refill your reefer fuel tank daily or every two days.

What is diesel #1 and #2?

Diesel 1 diesel is designed for use in winter. It works very well in cold temperatures. This is because it has lower viscosity and, therefore, does not freeze easily. Diesel 2 is diesel that is designed for local weather conditions.

What is the reefer fuel tank capacity?

What Kind Of Fuel Goes In A Reefer Trailer?Most reefer tanks have a 50-gallon capacity fuel tank.

Which is the best Reefer diesel engine brand?

Thermo King is widely regarded as the best reefer diesel engine brand.


It is important to understand on-road fuel and offroad fuel such as reefer fuel.

This is because if you are caught using reefer fuel on an on-road vehicle, you will be in a problem as we have already indicated. Fortunately, with this guide, it should be easier to choose the right one for you.

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