Exploring 4 Types of Diesel Fuel for Your Fleet

Reviewed by
Vedant Khamesra
Published date:
December 14, 2023

How to Choose the Right Diesel Fuel Type for Your Fleet

In the dynamic world of OTR fleet services, optimizing performance isn't just about managing routes or minimizing downtime—it's also about fueling your fleet wisely. Choosing the right types of diesel fuel can significantly impact your fleet's performance and cost efficiency. 

As such, staying informed and tapping into the expertise of industry leaders like AtoB is essential for any fleet manager. In the following guide, we'll discuss the various diesel fuel types, their implications for fleet efficiency, environmental impacts, engine compatibility, and how tools like fuel cards can play a pivotal role in making these crucial decisions.

Understanding Diesel Fuel Grades

The right grade of diesel can optimize performance, reduce emissions, and lead to cost savings. But first, you need to understand the distinctions between them. Here are the different grades:

  1. Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD): The modern standard for most highway diesel vehicles. It has a sulfur content limited to 15 parts per million.
  1. Dyed Diesel: Often referred to as red diesel, it's mainly for off-road use, like farming. It's dyed to differentiate it from other diesel types.
  1. Biodiesel: Made from vegetable oil, animal fats, or even recycled grease. It's eco-friendly and can blend with traditional diesel fuel.

  1. Premium Diesel: Contains higher energy components, giving it a boost in fuel efficiency and performance.

Knowing this, you can make informed decisions and ensure your fleet gets the fuel that aligns with its requirements and, by extension, operates at its peak potential. 

Choosing the Right Fuel: It's More Than Just Fill-and-Go

In the vast realm of fleet management, every decision matters—especially when it comes to fueling. After all, fuel doesn’t just power your fleet; it also significantly influences operational costs, vehicle lifespan, and even public perception of your brand. And, as the world becomes increasingly environmentally conscious, the stakes are high. It's no longer about just filling up the tank; it's about choosing wisely and strategically.

A one-size-fits-all approach doesn't apply when it comes to fueling a fleet. Consider:

  • Fleet Size: Smaller fleets might lean towards biodiesel due to its environmentally-friendly nature. However, for larger operations where costs can quickly add up, prioritizing fuel economy might be the name of the game.
  • Vehicle Type: Different vehicles have different needs. For example, the divide between a semi truck vs full truck is about size and fuel requirements. Make sure your choice complements the specific vehicles in your fleet.
  • Operational Region: The region where your fleet operates can also dictate your fuel choices. Local laws and regulations might encourage the use of certain fuels while sidelining others, so it's vital to be aware and compliant.

Moreover, other factors, such as the seasonality of operations, availability of fuels, and even the specific routes your vehicles take, can influence your choice. Beyond fuel prices and the commonly asked question, “Does diesel go bad?”, choosing the right fuel also encompasses both operational efficiency and long-term sustainability. As you navigate these considerations, you'll find that the right fuel choice not only benefits the fleet's performance but also its longevity and reputation in an increasingly eco-conscious market.

Evaluating Environmental Impact

As we’ve discussed, in the era of heightened environmental awareness, businesses can't afford to turn a blind eye to their ecological responsibilities. The transportation industry, being a major contributor to global emissions, holds a significant place in this discourse. As a response, biodiesel and renewable diesel have garnered substantial attention, and rightly so. These alternatives present a real chance to make fleets more eco-friendly.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that biodiesel can reduce life cycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 74% compared to petroleum diesel 1. This isn't merely a drop in the ocean; it's a tangible step towards a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Derived not from crude oil but sustainable sources, biodiesel has a lesser carbon dioxide output, placing it head and shoulders above traditional fossil diesel in the "green" hierarchy. Such advancements in fuel technology underline an essential truth: fuel choices made today don't just influence the immediate operational landscape. They play a pivotal role in sculpting the environmental legacy businesses will leave behind. Every gallon of biodiesel used is a stride towards a healthier planet, and fleet managers should recognize the weight of these decisions. In the long run, it's not simply about profit margins—it's about preserving our shared home for generations to come.


Diesel Compatibility, Efficiency, and Cost: Making the Right Choice

Beyond the environmental impact, there's the practical aspect of ensuring compatibility and efficiency, as using incompatible fuels can lead to a trip to the mechanic. For example, older diesel engines may struggle with ultra low sulfur diesel but could run smoothly on 2d fuel. Understand your engine's requirements—after all, Rudolf Diesel designed his engine to run on vegetable oil! 2

But, while engine compatibility is an essential factor, it's not the only thing fleet managers should be concerned about. Enter fuel efficiency. Especially in sectors like OTR trucking, where every mile and every gallon matters, efficiency can't be overlooked. Consider biodiesel blends; they're environmentally friendly, but might not take your vehicles as far as conventional diesel in terms of mileage. Yet, on the horizon is premium diesel—a type that, though slightly more expensive, promises better fuel efficiency. That means fewer stops at the fuel station and, in the long run, cost savings.

The journey of selecting the right diesel involves a careful blend of understanding both engine needs and fuel efficiency. Incorporating the use of fleet fuel cards can further streamline this process, offering insights into fuel consumption patterns and ensuring cost-effective purchases. And when done right, the rewards—in terms of performance, cost savings, and informed decision-making—can be significant.

Tips for Adapting to Biodiesel and Alternative Fuels

With the spotlight on sustainability and reducing carbon footprints, many fleet managers are gravitating towards greener fuel options. If you're contemplating making the shift, here's a more comprehensive guide to help you transition smoothly:

  1. Ease into Biodiesel: Instead of making an abrupt switch, begin with a biodiesel blend. This approach allows your fleet's engines to acclimatize to the new fuel. Over time, you can gradually increase the biodiesel content as your vehicles become more accustomed.
  1. Performance Tracking: As you introduce biodiesel or alternative fuels, consistently monitor fleet performance. Track metrics like fuel economy and vehicle responsiveness. Any drastic changes could indicate that adjustments are needed.
  1. Mind the Fuel Filters: Biodiesel has a knack for cleaning out engine residues. While this is a benefit, it also means that those residues can end up clogging fuel filters. Regularly inspect and change fuel filters, especially during the initial phase of the transition.
  1. Educate Your Team: Ensure that your team, especially drivers and maintenance crews, are well-informed about biodiesel. This will help them identify potential issues early and understand the nuances of working with this type of fuel.
  1. Stay Updated with Local Regulations: As alternative fuels gain traction, regulations surrounding their use might evolve. Stay informed about local and national guidelines to ensure your fleet remains compliant.
  1. Cost-Benefit Analysis: While biodiesel can offer environmental benefits, it's essential to weigh these against potential cost implications. Wondering how to manage fleet fuel costs more effectively? Monitor expenditure, fuel consumption rates, and maintenance costs to get a comprehensive understanding of the financial impact.

By embracing biodiesel and its advantages, you're making a statement—prioritizing the environment while also keeping an eye on operational efficiency. And with the right approach, this transition can lead to both ecological and economic benefits for your fleet.

Navigating the Diesel Landscape: AtoB's Guide to Success

The different types of diesel fuel available today are diverse, each offering distinct advantages. By understanding and strategically selecting the right diesel type, fleet managers can reap benefits ranging from cost savings to better fleet performance. And remember, if you're ever in doubt, AtoB is here to steer you in the right direction, ensuring your fuel choices drive you toward success.


1 RP news wires. “A History Lesson on Rudolf Diesel, Creator of the Diesel Engine.” Reliableplant.com, Noria Corporation, 17 Mar. 2010, www.reliableplant.com/Read/23464/History-lesson-diesel-engine

2 U.S. Department of Energy. “Alternative Fuels Data Center: Biodiesel Vehicle Emissions.” Energy.gov, 2019, afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/diesels_emissions.html.

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Reviewed by

Vedant Khamesra

Vedant Khamesra is the driving force behind product management at AtoB. Specializing in strategic partnerships, SMB solutions, and new product development, Vedant seamlessly navigates P&L responsibilities while leading product execution and strategy. He is fueled by AtoB's mission to empower truckers and fleets with intelligent financial tools and services, making their lives easier and more rewarding.

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