Reefer Fuel: Things You Need To Know

If you drive a refrigerated tractor-trailer, you will require two fuel types. The engine is powered by standard diesel, but the other component requires fueling: the refrigeration unit. Reefer fuel is a type of tax-free diesel intended for off-road and refrigerated trailer usage. This makes it an affordable option for farm or construction vehicles operating on private land. This article explains a clear difference between reefer fuel and tractor fuel.

What is Reefer Fuel?

Reefer fuel is a type of diesel fuel that is most commonly used to power refrigeration units installed on shipping containers, trailers, or trucks. A reefer fuel is also called a reefer fuel or refrigerated trailer fuel.

Reefer Fuel

A refrigeration unit uses to transfer unpreserved goods that need temperature control, like frozen foods, dairy products, pharmaceuticals, and fresh produce.  

These fuels are specially prepared to meet the requirements of the refrigeration unit, which requires fuel that contains a high cetane rating and low sulfur.

Reefer fuel plays a big role in lowering engine emissions and improving refrigeration unit performance.

Reefer fuel can also be utilized to regulate the temperature in refrigerated trucks but not to operate the truck itself. According to Simplex Group, these are some of the most important things you should know about reefer fuel!

What Are the Differences Between Reefer Fuel and Tractor Fuel?

Before you can tell the difference between reefer and tractor fuels, you should first understand what tractor fuel is. Tractor fuel is a low-grade fuel created by the traditional distillation of crude oil from gasoline and diesel.

Refining techniques developed during WWII enabled this to be converted into more usable fuel and began to fade away.

The main difference between the tractor fuel and the reefer fuel is given below:

1) Taxes

In some countries, high taxes on gasoline have made tractor fuel more affordable. However, it is only applicable for off-road vehicles, and you must avoid using it on the road. You won’t have to pay taxes if you use reefer fuel for off-road vehicles.

2) Purpose

Many manufacturers have created low-compression “all-fuel” engines to burn tractor fuel and gasoline. The engine can run on modern gasoline, starting with gasoline from a small tank and switching to tractor fuel when it is warm.

3) Cost

Reefer fuel is often cheaper than other fuels, particularly tractor fuel. It is mainly used for heating specific types of vehicles and machinery in construction and qualifies for a rebate. If you want a cost-effective alternative to other fuel types, reefer fuel is a good choice, even if you don’t use it on the road.

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How Much Fuel Does the Reefer Use?

The efficiency of reefer systems can differ significantly, with fuel consumption ranging from half a gallon to one gallon per hour.

If a driver operates their vehicles for the maximum of 11 consecutive hours allowed by the hours of service (HOS) regulations, they could consume between 5.5 and 11 gallons of fuel. Over 24 hours, refrigerated trucks, on average, use approximately 18 gallons of reefer fuel.

What Is a Reefer Fuel Tank’s Capacity?

The capacity of a standard reefer fuel tank is 50 gallons, while larger train cars can have tanks of up to 200 gallons. The fuel consumption rate of most reefer tanks is between 0.4 and 1.1 gallons per hour, which depends on several factors, like the operating mode, trailer contents, and ambient air temperature.

When operating in automatic mode, a reefer tank burns fuel at the lower end of the range, and it can last for several days before requiring refueling. It is recommended to keep the tank adequately filled to prevent product loss, as allowing air to enter the tank may result in a service call and additional expenses.

How Much Does Reefer Fuel Cost?

The primary motive for opting for reefer fuel over tractor fuel is the lower cost per gallon. Reefer fuel is priced lower than standard number two diesel in all locations, particularly in states such as California that impose high road taxes.

As of June 2022, the cost of reefer fuel ranges from $2.97 to $2.99 per gallon, while standard number two diesel is sold at retail for $5.57 per gallon.

Based on estimates from the U.S. Department of Energy, a stationary truck consumes approximately 0.8 gallons of diesel per hour when idling. Over a year, an idling truck consumes an average of 1,500 gallons of fuel.

Assuming a truck is idle for a year, reefer fuel could save roughly $3,870 on average. Moreover, if a vehicle consumes 3,000 gallons of fuel annually and is not driven on the road, the yearly savings could amount to $7,740.

Running Out of Reefer Fuel Consequences

To avoid spoilage of temperature-sensitive items inside a reefer unit, keeping the fuel tank from running empty is crucial. If a reefer unit runs out of fuel, you are out of luck.

The refrigeration generators will inevitably shut down, and spoilage of goods is inevitable. Moreover, restarting a reefer unit after it runs out of fuel can be challenging, so it’s advisable to ensure that the fuel tank has a minimum of a quarter tank of reefer fuel all the time.

FAQ Section

Can You Run Off-road Diesel in a Reefer Trailer?

It’s permissible to utilize off-road diesel or reefer fuel to power a reefer trailer as long as it is not employed to propel the vehicle on the road. Reefer fuel or low-emission diesel is commonly utilized to regulate the temperature inside reefer trailers.

Is Reefer Fuel Considered Diesel Fuel?

Reefer diesel and regular diesel are essentially interchangeable. Reefer diesel is a type of diesel that uses a red dye to indicate a different tax categorization. It is used for off-road identification in refrigerated trailers, agricultural equipment, and construction trucks. This certification is highly regulated, and using reefer fuel in on-road trucks might lead to fines.

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