Fuel specification blamed for blocked filters issue

With the blocked fuel filter issues once again affecting tractors and other agricultural machinery, a call has been issued for ‘urgent and focused action’ to be taken to address the underlying issues which are costing individual businesses thousands of pounds.

Jamie Smart, NFU Scotland.

And with farmers affected by the issue which first arose in October 2019 left without any recompense, NFU Scotland yesterday issued a call for the fuel industry to speed up the introduction of new standards.

Claiming that the current specifications set for agricultural diesel with new higher content of biofuels were ‘not fit for purpose’ Jamie Smart, the union’s transport advisor and member of the cross-industry fuel taskforce set up to address the issue, said that fuel filter blockages remained a regular and costly problem for many Scottish farmers and crofters.

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“The specification and standards of fuel are being cited as the problem,” he said, “but the introduction of improvements to fuel specifications has been too slow, and farmers are still being left with the cost of repair, new filter replacements and vehicle down-time.”

He said that when this problem first emerged 18 months ago, the union received more than 400 reports of filter blocking from across Scotland - costing some individuals thousands of pounds in repair and replacement of parts and fuel treatments.

But Smart said that while the fuel taskforce had been set up to assess and resolve the problems, progress had been painfully slow and almost two years on, there had been no overarching solution to the continuing problem.

“The Taskforce has had some small wins regarding changes to fuel specifications but getting those changes into the fuel supply chain have been delayed,” said Smart who added that although tests on fuel samples indicated that most fuels met current standards, the fact that some fuel was still blocking filters and causing vehicle breakdowns meant the spec was simply not fit for purpose.

Union vice-president Robin Traquair added: “The continued problems related to filter blocking are unacceptable. As farmers and crofters, we are purchasing fuel from reputable suppliers and we need that fuel to be reliable for our businesses, so we can continue to put food on the nation’s table.”

He said the filter blocking issues meant that some filters were lasting only a tiny proportion of their expected use, while the cost of repair, down time, and replacement parts were being shouldered solely by the users: “It isn’t the responsibility of farmers to ensure fuel is fit for purpose, but it is the situation we keep finding ourselves in. It’s up to British Standards Institution (BSI) and the fuel chain to push forward with the specification changes to ensure the fuel is fit for purpose and filter blocking problems are resolved once and for all.”

He said that the union had set up a fuel filter hub on its website for members to report the problems currently being experienced or members could contact their Regional Manager or report it on NFU Scotland’s Agricultural Vehicle Helpline.

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