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HM Revenue and Customs Brief 32/13


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1st  November 2013

Excise duty: Use of red diesel in agricultural vehicles when gritting roads

Purpose of this brie

This brief gives information about a change to Schedule 1 of the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act (HODA) which adds gritting to the activities that tractors, light agricultural vehicles and agricultural material handlers may carry out on public roads while fuelled with red diesel.

Who needs to read this?

This change will affect anyone who uses or intends to use agricultural vehicles to spread grit on public roads to deal with frost, ice or snow.


Agricultural vehicles such as tractors are allowed to use red diesel for off-road activities but their use on public roads is restricted to specific purposes. Until now, only purpose built gritters have been allowed to run on red diesel when gritting public roads. However, the highways authorities that use them have to concentrate on priority routes and cannot always reach remote rural roads.

It is not practical for farmers to re-fuel their tractors with white diesel to respond quickly to local gritting needs. This means that rural roads can remain untreated, restricting safe access to villages.

Having established that changing UK law to allow the use of red diesel in certain agricultural vehicles to enable them to deal with wintry conditions would be compatible with EU law, HMRC held a consultation in 2012 to establish whether such a change was desirable. The response from farming unions, rural communities and official gritting authorities was overwhelmingly positive. As a result, HMRC announced plans to amend legislation to allow three categories of agricultural vehicles - tractors, light agricultural vehicles and agricultural material handlers - to use rebated fuel when gritting roads.

What is being changed?

Gritting roads to deal with frost, ice or snow has been added to the list of activities for which agricultural tractors, light agricultural vehicles and agricultural material handlers may use red diesel on public roads. 

Who will be affected?

The change will affect farmers, commercial gritting businesses, local and county councils, other businesses and households, primarily in rural areas.

Why is the change being made?

In many cases, rural communities are outside the reach of municipal gritting authorities, leading to calls for farmers to use their tractors or other agricultural vehicles for gritting. Although these vehicles are the most suitable and readily available for gritting use, being ordinarily fuelled with red diesel means they have not been able to respond.

HMRC appreciates that farmers need to be able to respond quickly to adverse weather using the versatile equipment available to them, and this change will allow them to use their vehicles to help keep access routes open for the benefit and safety of everyone in rural communities.

What legislation is being changed or introduced?

Schedule 1 HODA has been amended to add gritting to the list of permitted activities in the excepted vehicle categories 2 (Tractors), 3 (Light Agricultural Vehicles) and 3A (Agricultural Material Handlers).


The change comes into effect on 1 November 2013

Further Guidance

Further information relating to fuel for road and off road use can be found in

HMRC Notice 75: Fuel for road vehicles

About the Author

Crown Copyright 2013.

A licence is needed to reproduce this article and has been republished for educational / informational purposes only. Article reproduced by permission of HM Revenue & Customs.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-11-14 09:07:18 in Tax Articles

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