May 13, 2022

SCAC (Standard Carrier Alpha Code) – Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Is The Standard Carrier Alpha Code?

The standard carrier alpha code is also known as the SCAC and it is a unique 2-to-4 letter code that is used for the identification of carriers and transportation companies. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association developed this in the 1960s.

Now it has become a more computerized way of storing and managing information and records. It makes sure that all your shipping documents are stored in a computer system in a digital and easily retrievable format. This means that all your freight bills, purchase orders, packing lists, and bills of lading will be digitized and easily accessible to concerned parties. This eliminates the need of mailing hard copies of documents back and forth between you and your stakeholders. The SCAC code is used across various modes such as water, rail, and motor to monitor transportation companies all over the country.

2. Who Needs A SCAC Code?

The SCAC code is a critical requirement and it is primarily used by US government agencies. The customs and border protection authority also uses this code. It helps them monitor carriers that enter the country using international state borders. This code helps them retrieve important information about the carriers and transportation companies that intend to do business with the US government and its various agencies. For example, The Food and Drug Administration uses this code to make sure that none of the food items and edibles that are being transported inside the country’s borders are contaminated or lead to any threat to the general public. This code is highly useful for forestry, railroad, petroleum, automobile, and ocean container industries.

3. How To Get A Certificate Of Standard Carrier Alpha Code?

Your SCAC code will be assigned to you by the NMFTA. You can apply on their official website and go through the procedure as directed by them to apply for this certificate. The application fee is subject to change depending upon the state you reside in.

You very well know that this code is used to identify motor carriers and transportation companies. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association is going to issue this code to identify you. After you receive the code and if you have any issues using it in ACE or perhaps if you want to use it in your Exports in the Automated Export System, you should generate a request for the US Customs and Border Protection, Office of Trade. You should also attach the NMFDA letter along with that email.

4. How Can You Use The SCAC To Automate Your Work In Shipping?

Your SCAC code allows you to automate your various shipping procedures. It is a great way to register your shipping documents with a computer system that is highly secure and allows for easy record retrieval and information management. It allows you to store and share several of your documents such as:

  • Invoices and bills
  • Purchase orders
  • Advanced ship notices
  • Bills of lading
  • Inventory documents
  • Customs documents
  • Shipping status documents
  • Payment documents

You can share all these documents with your stakeholders instantly after receiving your SCAC certificate.

5. Is There A SCAC Code List?

Yes, there is a SCAC code list for various carriers. It is available easily online. Some of the biggest international carriers and their codes are given below:

  • MSC, Mediterranean Shipping Company
  • CMA CGM, Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement Compagnie Generale Maritime
  • COSCO, COSCO Container Lines
  • Hapag Lloyd, Hapag Lloyd Container Line
  • Maersk, Maersk Line

6. Who Uses EDI Shipping?

The EDI system is a great way to automatically update your estimated times of arrival, critical documents, release statuses, and more. Customs brokers, customs officers, NVOCCs, and various other shipping groups and industry players use the EDI system. The two most common standards of EDI are:

File Transfer Protocol

File transfer protocol is one of the oldest methods to transfer files from one network to another. The shipping industry relies highly on this kind of information transmission.


This method of communication is used between parties belonging to different countries and using different native languages.

7. What Are The Various Benefits Of Using EDI Integration And SCAC Code?

There are numerous benefits of using EDI integration and SCAC code together. The logistics industry is highly thankful for these technologies for the simple reason that now they can ensure the following:

Faster and highly automated handling of all data and its storage

Sending and retrieving information and record-keeping has become very easy because all of that can be done automatically now.

Processing of information has become faster and virtually error-free

There is no human element involved which means that there are no errors at all. This has made documentation and data processing much more efficient and free of any mistakes.

Ready access to real-time information is now possible

With EDI integration, stakeholders can access information almost instantly. Receiving and sending data in documents has become much faster with unparalleled accuracy and no delays whatsoever.

A well-integrated communication system has come to the fore

It has also facilitated communication between various stakeholders, simplifying shipping operations across international borders as well. All the purchase orders, pending payments, invoices, and receipts can now be shared quickly.

Improved relationships among stakeholders and business associates

Because it can streamline data flow and improve the overall efficiency of your operations, it directly impacts your relationship with your business partners and associates. It also allows you to reduce your response times significantly.

Streamlining communication where it is most needed

Yes, intermodal transportation is where streamlining communication is the need of the hour. A single communication channel that allows stakeholders to stay connected is now at your disposal.

8. How Can I Find My SCAC Code?

You can just apply for your SCAC code on the National Motor Freight Association Website. Or you can apply for it through mail or in person too at the NMSTA office. You can pay the application fee using your credit card.

You can find these codes online very easily. You will notice that the codes that end with “U” are the ones that belong to companies that operate freight containers.You can very easily find your SCAC number if you look through your moving and shipping documents.

It is going to be unique for every freight carrier. Whenever you are preparing your bills or shipping documents, you will have to refer to this code. You can also go through your trade bills, packing lists, and purchase orders to find your SCAC number because they are highly likely to feature it somewhere.

Likewise, you can go through your confirmation documents which are bound to contain your SCAC number from the National Motor Freight Traffic Association. The letter that you receive will also be in your email inbox, the one that you have registered with the NMFTA.

9. Do All Carriers Have To Carry A SCAC Code?

The SCAC code is important if you want to be identified as a transportation company. It is required by all carriers that intend to do business with any US government agencies. If you are crossing the border and entering the United States, you will have to carry SCAC with you. If you are a carrier and hold an MC number or if you are a freight forwarder with an FF number, you can obtain a SCAC for each of your operations.

In the transportation and logistics industry, you must carry your SCAC code if you want to automate your operations and record-keeping operations. Ocean and air carriers as well have started using SCAC numbers because they want to automate their various operations and intend to make it simpler for government agencies to identify them as transportation companies. These codes also help the United States Customs and Border Protection to monitor their shipping activities and operations.

The SCAC codes help in facilitating the Automated Commercial Environment which is a system for lodging your export and import shipments. It also enables the Automated Manifest System which is a border protection program highly useful in monitoring incoming shipments to the US. It helps eliminate any potential security threats. Pre-arrival Processing Systems are also assisted with the same SCAC code. This is used by custom brokers in addition to a unique identification number provided to them by the carrier.

10.  Is A SCAC Code Mandatory?

A SCAC code becomes essential if you want to do business with any US government agencies. You must apply for this code if you are working in the automobile industry or the petroleum sector, forest products, and chemical industries as well.

This code helps monitor your shipping activities and facilitates easy accessibility of documents and critical information. If you are a transportation company, you will need this code to do business with the US government agencies as pointed out above.

11.  Do SCAC Codes Expire?

Yes, your SCAC code does get expired. It is valid through July 1st of the following year and then you have to renew it next year and then every year on June 30th.

All international carriers should remember that they must renew their SCAC code in the month of May. Once their code becomes inactive, it will be assigned to other carriers. This means that their code will be no more active and they will have to apply for a new SCAC number. In order to prevent any possible delays and denials at the border, they must renew their SCAC code right away.

12.  What Is The Standard Carrier Alpha Code Renewable Procedure?

It is very easy to apply for this unique 2-to-4 letter code. You just have to visit the NMFTA website and apply for the code online. You will be directed through the steps. Provide them with the necessary documents that are required to complete this application. There is a fee that you will have to pay in the end as well.

Or you can steer clear of all this confusion and get in touch with a dependable third-party DOT compliance facilitator and SCAC service provider. They can handle all of this for you and you don’t have to deviate from your usual responsibilities and operations.

13.  How Much Does It Cost To Obtain A SCAC?

The cost of the SCAC application is $97 but only if you draw on a US bank. Otherwise, the fee is going to be $107 (For example if you draw on any Canadian Bank).

14.  Do Freight Brokers Also Need SCAC?

Yes, freight carriers and brokers will need a SCAC if they intend to participate in the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement. They must maintain this code year after year.

15.  How Long Does It Take To Obtain A SCAC Number?

Once the application process is complete, you will receive your SCAC code on your registered email within 24 hours during any business week.

16.  Does Every Trucking Company Have A SCAC Code?

Every trucking company that intends to do business with US government agencies and comes in direct dealing with customs and border protection authority should have a SCAC code.

Carriers may also apply for a single SCAC number for each mode of operation. If you are a carrier and you hold a motor carrier number along with a freight forwarder number, you can obtain a SCAC for each operation.

17.  What Is The SCAC For R&L Carriers?

The SCAC code for R&L carriers is GMLS.



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