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DEF shortages – Could they sideline your summer travel plans?

In the last few weeks several RV publications have run stories about the current state of DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) supply in the U.S. Some have been downright alarmist, suggesting fulltime RVers may find themselves stuck and unable to move due to lack of DEF. Are DEF shortages about to throw a major crimp in your travel plans?

Mamma mia, less urea!

DEF shortages
monsoonmike on instagram.com

If you drive a diesel rig, DEF likely is part of your purchase routine. The fluid is mandated for use in many diesels to aid in the reduction of nitrous oxides, an unhealthy exhaust byproduct. If your engine requires it and you don’t pump it into your rig, you will see serious trouble, like having your speed reduced to 5 miles per hour. Simply put, you can’t get along without it.

DEF is largely water, the balance of about a third is urea. That’s an organic chemical compound that, long before DEF was even dreamed of, was a major player in fertilizer. And that’s part of what’s causing the alarm about potential DEF shortages. China, the second-largest world exporter of urea, is having issues with an increased in-country demand for fertilizer. In the first quarter of this year, its exports had dropped nearly a third. The first largest exporter of urea is none other than Russia. Certain issues between Russia and Ukraine have led to economic constraints and export restrictions.

DEF shortages
USDA

The U.S. does produce its own urea. In 2019, the country produced more than six million metric tons—an impressive amount. At the same time, the nation still imported almost five million tons. Since then, the demand for urea has increased, as more fertilizer and more DEF are in demand. The U.S. is still in a better position in having its needs met. In Korea, the price for the equivalent “box” (two-and-a-half gallons) of DEF runs $48.42. In the U.S., a box of brand-name DEF is currently around $28, while “house brands” are pegged at about $17.

Trouble at the truck stop?

But not everyone buys DEF in a box. Many RVers take advantage of DEF at truck stop pumps. Pilot Flying J stations are major suppliers to both RVers and the commercial trucking industry. What really set many pundits to screaming was testimony given by Pilot Flying J’s CEO Shameek Konar to the Surface Transportation Board near the end of April.

DEF shortages
Tony Webster on flickr.com

Konar brought the board up to speed, explaining that his company sells huge amounts of DEF across the nation. The commodity is shipped to Pilot via railroad tanker cars using Union Pacific rail lines. Konar told the board that the railroad was having logistical issues and demanded Pilot reduce its DEF deliveries by half, or face a total embargo.

Visions of truckloads of food and other material being sidelined by a DEF shortage bubbled in the heads of many media outlets. As mentioned, several RV sources have picked up the story, making it appear that DEF could become unavailable.

This week, we contacted Pilot Flying J to ask for an update. “Due to productive conversations with Union Pacific we are able to continue to utilize their rail services to supply our customers and guests,” wrote Billy Leach, a company media representative. “We look forward to maintaining this relationship to ensure that America’s over-the-road commercial trucking remains strong.” Let out your breath. In terms of DEF shortages at one of America’s major truckstops due to transportation issues, it isn’t happening. At least, not at this time.

Still hitting the wallet

That doesn’t mean that the DEF scene is all smooth sailing. The constriction of urea is still having an effect and, like motor fuel, prices are reflecting the problem. Prior to the COVID outbreak, you could walk into any Walmart and buy two-and-a-half gallons of Walmart-branded DEF for $6.97. Today you’ll spend $11.38 for the same box—a 63% increase. In comparison, diesel fuel prices have gone up 79% in the same time frame.

Is the leap in the price of DEF related to the availability of urea? It seems likely. But be happy that the increase in urea prices aren’t mirrored, point by point, in the price of DEF. Back in 2019, urea prices ran $245 per metric ton. Today, the price is just a tiny bit south of $1,000 a metric ton—a whopping 308% increase. If DEF had gone up proportionally, you’d be asked to pay $28.43 for that same box—or more than $11.00 a gallon.

Save DEF for a rainy day?

What’s to be done about the nasty rise in DEF? If there were to be DEF shortages, one can easily see even higher prices. Stockpiling DEF could be one thought. But DEF has a limited shelf life. When DEF goes bad, bad things can happen. You may see your engine use more of the stuff. Your monitoring system may spot bad DEF and derate (slow down) your rig. Worse, you could potentially damage your dosing pump and diesel particulate filter. Inconvenience plus financial hurt equals trouble all around.

DEF shortages
amazon.com

DEF’s typical shelf life is about a year from manufacture. If you can decipher the date code on the package, you’ll have the date. From there, storage is important. Ideally, DEF should be stored between 12 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, it will freeze at low temperatures, but once thawed, DEF is fine. But stored above 86 degrees, DEF begins to degrade and lose effectiveness. And no, contrary to urban legend, whizzing in your DEF tank won’t work. Urine doesn’t contain the right amount of urea, and it does have other components that could do major hurt to your DEF system.

Just what the future holds for DEF users isn’t completely clear. Hopefully DEF shortages won’t manifest themselves in a cost-prohibitive way. Set aside extra bucks in your fuel budget and hang on for the ride.

Related

Is it safe to run that cheaper Walmart DEF?

##RVT1055b

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ILoveChickenWings1965
29 days ago

The implied shortages would likely be seen at truck stops that sell DEF at the pump. The problem is with transporting DEF and Deisel by rail. Union Pacific has asked Flying J / Pilot to reduce their shipments of DEF and Deisel fuel by 26%-50% or face an embargo charge. I’m still paying 11.99 for 2.5 gallons at Wilco. I bought enough to get me through the year because it does have a shelf life of a couple of years.

BILLY Bob Thronton
29 days ago

Just went to Wally World bought a 2 1/2 gal. DEF Blue for $16.00. Thats up about $3.00 from last year. Shelf was packed.

Bud
29 days ago

Those who write these articles or those “industry experts” need to go shopping to figure out there is no DEF shortage. I cannot count how many pallets of this stuff I see everywhere. Another scare tactic and promotes by this newsletter.

Frank
24 days ago
Reply to  Bud

Funny. I got the impression that the article was actually debunking the ‘shortage’.

Ted
29 days ago

I can’t understand why every time I hear a “SUPPLY CHAIN SHORTAGE” when stock is in short supply and the very next sentence says CHINA is involved. Our EPA makes producing many of these Chinese, supply chain, products impossible to manufacture in the United States. EVERYONE in the United States is paying for a DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) shortage, in higher costs to transport goods to our dinner table. Our EPA created the need for DEF. A main ingredient of DEF is fertilizer. CHINA is the #2 producer of that fertiilzer. What do farmers use to produce food for our dinner table?

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago

Anybody know what the average DEF injection rate is per gallon of diesel. Would be nice to know, so you can carry enough DEF to get to your camping destination and back, and not get waylaid.

Manxe
1 month ago

You can make perfectly good urea, adequate for fertilizing your lawn, by AGING your urine. A bit of Baking soda in the bottle keeps down the smell. Put it in the sunshine and the liquid evaporates. Any clue on whether this could be a substitute? Or are you afraid of a regulatory backlash?

Jim
29 days ago
Reply to  Manxe

DEF is about 33% urea whereas human urine is less than 10%. The other 67% of DEF is water whereas the other 90% of urine is water, human waste, dead cells, etc. Also remember the “if it’s clear, it’s beer” mantra which illustrates how human urine can be far less than 10% urea. You can fertilize with human urine, that is absolutely natural, but DEF and human urine are not interchangeable.

Jack
1 month ago

I would like to know where you can buy this stuff for $11.38. Two years ago that would have been about right. Yesterday with a 10% discount I paid $23.80. When you add this to the $5.50 plus for diesel your travel expense really adds up.

Richard Hughes
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack

I just purchased DEF at Walmart for less than $7.00 for a container.

Bud
29 days ago
Reply to  Richard Hughes

Me too! Whenever I want!

Thomas D
1 month ago

I wish I’d never seen my truck. I had a perfectly good 2007 dura max and traded for a 2011. NOTHING BUT TROUBLE. Now the heater in the tank, to prevent freezing is shot. I don’t need a heater. It’s 90 degrees out. I ‘m limited to 55mph. It’s a great feelingto drive on the interstate at 55. Believe me. It’ll be 2 weeks before the dealer can get to me and even then parts my not be available. Thanks EPA

Magee
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas D

I have a 2006 Dodge ton, 6 speed; get 26-28 mpg and no def. Have a line of would-be buyers lined up if I ever decide to part with it. Yep, thanks EPA. A friend got some outdated def at a local farm store, $300+ to pump out tank and reprogram in a 2021 Chev.

Last edited 1 month ago by Magee
Gary Smith
1 month ago

I just bought a box of Blue DEF at my local Kroger store in SW Washington on sale for $14.99. The date code was on the bottom of the plastic jug, not visible from the outside. It appears as though the manufacturer has changed the code scheme yet again to three letters (from two letters plus Julian calendar day of the year) and 12 numbers. Does anyone know how to decode it?

Larry
1 month ago
Reply to  Gary Smith

Go online How to decode Blue Def and watch the video. Complicated at first I watched it a couple of times to understand. No sense why they do it the way they do.

BILLY Bob Thronton
1 month ago
Reply to  Larry

Larry, obviously its the Russians.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

“the railroad was having logistical issues and demanded Pilot reduce its DEF deliveries by half, or face a total embargo.”

Wasn’t the railroad threatening to stop delivery of various foodstuffs for the same reason? When did the railroads start flexing their muscle to control delivery of ANYTHING?

John
26 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Warren Buffet owns Union Pacific. Maybe he’s doing his part to usher in the Great Reset.

Tommy Molnar
25 days ago
Reply to  John

Probably right, john.

Mike H
1 month ago

“Certain issues between Russia and Ukraine have led to economic constraints and export restrictions.”

Certain issues???? What…are we following the Kremlin’s edicts now that we can’t just lay it out and say that Russia invaded a neighboring sovereign nation and is committing horrendous war crimes against civilians so is being sanctioned? I know we’re not supposed to talk politics, but if in an article, let’s at least call a spade a spade!

While I have seen some temporary stockouts at some stores on DEF (throughout the entire pandemic), I’ve not had any issue acquiring it. Just got some for an upcoming trip at a farm store that had pallets of it out on the floor. Price had jumped from the $11.49 a 2.5 gallon box I paid back in December to $13.49 a box I paid last week.

2.5 gallons of DEF will get me around 900+ miles of travel, so at the latest price I paid, that’s 1.5 cents per mile. Not a show stopper.

Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike H

I read that as sarcasm in the article. Yes – Russia invaded a peaceful country and every human on earth should be donating to help Ukraine.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Mary
29 days ago
Reply to  Dave

Sarcasm or not, politics should not be discussed here. Especially if your “knowledge” comes from the television.

Leonard Rempel
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike H

100% agree. Putin is evil, and we all must call a spade a spade.

David Binkley
1 month ago

Lack of oil isn’t as big a problem as the lack of DEF. Much easier to control DEF which, in turn, helps control the masses, cut off food supplies, make trucking very difficult, etc. PS: DEF is now over $13/2.5 Gallons at Walmart.

Jim
28 days ago
Reply to  David Binkley

Over $16/2.5 gallons on 07 June 2022 at Walmart in AZ

Lorie
1 month ago

“Certain issues between Russia and Ukraine”. Call it what it is, an invasion, or if trying to appear neutral a war. It is a little bigger than an issue!!

Andy
1 month ago
Reply to  Lorie

Amen!

Dean
1 month ago

Environmentalism has become a religion for too many. The death of the unborn is their sacrament. There is no limit to the suffering placed on the “serfs” that may be required to make the elite extremists feel “holy”.

Ted
29 days ago
Reply to  Dean

Agree Dean!

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

When did we start building diesel engines that require DEF for the emissions reduction?

Rodney Lacy
1 month ago

2010 – 2011

ILoveChickenWings1965
29 days ago
Reply to  Rodney Lacy

It was introduced in 2007 and mandated in 2010. Diesel #2 went from “Low Sulfur” to “Ultra Low Sulphur” around the same time.

John Guy
1 month ago

The sensationalism regarding the “maybe” shortage of DEF is so freaking CNN like it makes you want to barf.

Jewel
1 month ago
Reply to  John Guy

Isn’t it!? The only thing real is that the current “leadership” is trying hard to convince us that electric vehicles are the future. And the control is the increased prices and the perception of lack of availability of certain things that are necessary to our way of life here in the USA.

B N S
1 month ago
Reply to  Jewel

Well Said!!

alan W householder
1 month ago
Reply to  John Guy

Electric vehicles sales up 60% this year imagine that, there plan is working, they being the green thinkers, scare them into submission, just like covid which worked almost to perfection

Warren G
1 month ago

We got an EV car about 1 1/2 years ago, not because we were “scared into submission” but because it made sense to us. Cleaner, quiet, minimal maintenance, and costing us just $.03 per mile to operate. Well over a 200 mile range that covers our needs very well.

Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren G

As time goes on EVs will be powered more and more by renewable energy sources. Plus every EV on the road reduces demand for fossil fuels, tilting those prices a little in the favor of consumers. My two cents.

Jim
29 days ago
Reply to  Warren G

Get back to us after you pay to replace the batteries.

Traveler
1 month ago

“There” plan forced you to buy an electric vehicle?

The Lazy Q
1 month ago

Another mandate for use that the United States cannot completely meet the demand and has to rely on the enemy. Smart thinking pols. If only the scarecrow had a brain.

John Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

Wish it were that easy. Age does so much to clear up real intentions of the Uber rich, Corporate America and Washington. They’re becoming brazen and could care less about “We the People”.

With my personal growth, I’m finding that this world will require a blend of ideas that “We the People” are too angry and suspicious of each other to sit down face to face, positively argue and come together on a plan for everyone.

What will Washington and those living in the perimeter call Americans when they start flexing a muscle not seen yet by the Politicos. Calling “We the People” dissidents and domestic terrorists won’t help what’s coming if these freaking morons don’t start doing what we voted them to do. JMO.

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  John Guy

Send 100 more lawyers to Washington, I’m sure they’ll come up with a legal reason for all our problems. Not a solution mind you but a reason. Lol

Ted
29 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

Well said!

ddobs
1 month ago
Reply to  John Guy

✔️ well said,JG! thx

B N S
1 month ago
Reply to  John Guy

Xcellent!!

Traveler
1 month ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

Lazy Q- another way to look at it is that other countries may be more business savvy than the US and produce what the US “needs”. Instead of an entrepreneur here?

Ted
29 days ago
Reply to  Traveler

Foreign countries aren’t more “savvy” than the United States. They don’t have FEDERAL regulations and an Environmental Protection Agency to kill an entrepreneur’s spirit!

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