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What Is Reefer Fuel?

Reefer fuel is a special type of diesel fuel that is only permitted for use in powering equipment that is not used for transportation on a public road. As the name would suggest, it’s also used for refrigerated trucks, but only for the refrigeration part. Vehicles still need to use regular diesel/gasoline to power the vehicle engine. 

Another primary use is for construction vehicles that only operate on a worksite. For all the “whys” surrounding reefer fuel use vs. other types of diesel, check out the rest of this article!

How Does Fueling a Reefer Trailer Work?

Refrigerated trailers use insulation and an engine that controls the temperature in the trailer. The reefer system, which includes a compressor, evaporator, and condenser, takes warm air out of the space and replaces it with cold, or even freezing cold air, in order to keep the contents at whatever the desired temperature may be. 

Most reefer tanks are located in the middle of the trailer off to the side or in the rear. At most fill stations, they will be set up to first fill your tractor, and then after pulling forward, you can fill your reefer tank from a different hose. If you only need reefer fuel, simply tell the tenders and they’ll direct you where to go. 

How Much Does Reefer Fuel Cost?

Like gasoline and diesel, reefer fuel costs vary from region to region throughout the United States. COVID-19 affected reefer fuel costs just as it did gasoline, and now that demand is rising sharply again, reefer costs have risen. The current national average is $2.97 per mile, so it adds up quickly, especially if you’re driving a large truck with frozen goods. 

How Long Does a Tank of Reefer Fuel Last?

Reefer trucks burn around 3/4th of a gallon of reefer fuel per hour, and most tanks are 50 gallons. With that, reefer tanks usually need to be filled every 2 or 3 days, but again this also depends on freight requirements. 

How Much Fuel Does a Reefer Use for a Day?

At the low-end, a reefer truck will burn about .4 gallons per hour, meaning 9.6 gallons of fuel in a regular 24-hour period. On the high-end, trucks can burn at about 1.1 gallons per hour, meaning 26.4 gallons over a day. 

Where Can You Get Reefer Fuel?

Reefer fuel is available at almost all locations that advertise service specifically for diesel trucks. As it is also used to power many off-road vehicles, local ATV service and sales companies will often have access as well, if you find yourself in a bind. 

Reefer Fuel and Taxes

As reefer fuel is not used for on-road operations, it does not get subjected to on-road taxes, either. If a vehicle is caught on a public road using reefer fuel, watch out… fines can be upwards of $10,000!

How Reefer Fuel Differs from Diesel

Here are the ways that reefer fuel differs from regular diesel. 

Cost

Reefer fuel costs less per gallon than regular diesel, which is the primary reason some people try to get away with using it on roads. Also the primary reason people choose to use it legally on work sites or at home. 

Taxes

On-road diesel and gasoline can be taxed at as much as fifty cents per gallon after state and federal taxes, while reefer fuel is actually subjected to a federal refund each year, so keep those receipts. 

Purpose

Reefer fuel can only be used in off-road situations when powering a vehicle. This does not apply to powering the refrigeration unit of a trailer, which is why it is legal to use for transportation in that sense. 

Color

Reefer fuel is chemically very similar to diesel, and as such is dyed red to avoid confusion (and for quick proof of illegal usage). 

Are You a Reefer Trucker?

Understanding the difference between reefer fuel and regular diesel is important for a number of reasons, but the primary one is avoiding those stiff penalties for improper on-road use. There are several other ins and outs of being a reefer trucker relative to a non-reefer one, but understanding the fuel is a very important piece of the puzzle. 

Zero-fee fuel card – accepted everywhere!

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Zero-fee fuel card – accepted everywhere!

NO monthly service fees, NO credit score or SSN required, universal discounts, and a driver-friendly dashboard!