Alberta trucking companies add carbon tax surcharge to customers' bills

Two Alberta trucking companies are upping their rates, adding a line to customer invoices outlining a carbon tax surcharge.

Hi-Way 9 and Grimshaw will be adding a line to invoices outlining new charges for customers

Trucking companies are among the Alberta businesses who are trying to figure out how they'll be affected by the provincial carbon tax that kicks in on Jan. 1, 2017. Two trucking companies, Grimshaw and Hi-Way 9, say they plan to add a carbon tax surcharge. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Two Alberta trucking companies are upping their rates and blaming the carbon tax. To make the point, they're adding a line to customer invoices outlining a carbon tax surcharge.

Grimshaw and Hi-Way 9, both owned by the Mullen Group, declined interview requests on the matter. 

Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, says politics could be at play.

"I think there's a lot of people worried about what the cost will be and they want to pass the cost along, and they want to raise a political question about whether this is an appropriate tax," she said.

Williams isn't convinced that strategy will change much, with the federal and provincial governments both saying strong climate change rules are the price that needs to be paid for pipeline approvals. 

"We've even got oil industry execs now saying that this is actually good for the oil industry and for the environment, and I think that's what the Notley government and the supporters of the policy are going to be focusing on," she said. 

Fuel costs rising

Grimshaw said it will implement a one per-cent surcharge on all freight charges as of Jan. 1, 2017. That will increase to 1.5 per cent on Jan. 1, 2018 as the carbon tax increases. 

Hi-Way 9's surcharge will be 0.8 per cent of freight charges starting on Jan. 1, 2017.

The carbon tax is expected to add 5.35 cents per litre to diesel fuel and 4.49 cents per litre to gasoline in 2017. Natural gas will rise 1.011 dollars per gigajoule and propane will increase by 3.08 cents per litre. 

Jason Nixon, the Wildrose MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, said he supports the addition of a carbon tax surcharge line to invoices. 

"I think Albertans have a right to know what the carbon tax is going to cost them," he said. "I tried to, and my colleagues tried to, move an amendment during the debate on the carbon tax that would require the carbon tax to be made clear on fuel receipts and other receipts where it was being levied on the people of Alberta."

He said he doesn't believe adding a line to invoices blaming the carbon tax for the price increases has anything to do with politics. 

Mullen Group growing 

The Mullen Group made several acquisitions in 2016 in the realm of trucking and logistics and said in a release of its business plans that the group intends to do more in 2017.

"There is also evidence of many distressed competitors, in both the oilfield services and trucking/logistics sectors, who have locked in pricing for the coming year and which have failed to anticipate increased costs most notably with labour, repairs and maintenance, the increased cost of fuel and Alberta's carbon tax," reads the release. 

The group went into the final quarter of 2016 with a cash and cash equivalent position of $261.3 million.

With files from Andrew Brown