May 13, 2022

Standard Carrier Alpha Code – Things You Should Know Before You Apply

It is very essential to know the basics of the standard carrier alpha code before you apply for it on the National Motor Freight Traffic Association website.

This code is a 2-to 4-letter code that has been developed by the NMFTA.

The SCAC identification number came into existence in the 1960s and they have now become a very reliable framework that helps the national motor freight traffic association to identify transportation companies working in this sector.

The American National Standards Institute Accredited Standards Committee and United Nations EDIFACT approved Electronic Data Interchange also use the same code for transportation company identification.

These codes are mandatory for every motor, rail, and water carrier transaction that a freight forwarder or a broker or carrier company wants to do with US government agencies. 

If you want to file any tariffs with the Surface Transportation Board, you are required to have your SCAC number with you.

The United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection also mandates that you acquire a SCAC for their Automated Commercial Environment, Automated Manifest, and Pre-arrival Processing Systems.

The Food and Drug Administration also emphasizes strongly on the use of SCAC numbers.

They use these codes in their Prior Notice System Interface to keep track of the food items imported into the US through any adjoining state or country borders.

So, If you are a commercial shipper or any company involved in the automobile, forest products, petroleum, or chemical industries. You must acquire your SCAC number to do business with the US government.

If you are a carrier who uses the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Facilities Access Agreement, a SCAC code is a must for you. You must do all you can to maintain its validity throughout the year.

Fun Fact About SCAC

Do you know that SCAC numbers that end with the letter U are usually reserved for freight containers? Yes, these codes are reserved for the identification of these entities.

The ones that end with the letter X are usually reserved for the identification of any privately owned railroad cars.

Similarly, if you find any codes that end with the letter Z, these are usually reserved for the identification of truck chassis and trailers that are frequently employed in intermodal services. 

What Do You Know About The Directory Of Standard Carrier Alpha Codes?

Yes, there is a directory of standard carrier alpha codes which is published by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association Inc.

The directory is maintained and updated quarterly and re-issued every year. You can access the most current and relevant SCAC data by just performing an online search.

If you want to download any data, the SCAC information is available through their official CD ROM, and their data distribution service is carried through email or FTP.

What Does Your Standard Carrier Alpha Code Look Like?

Your standard carrier alpha code is a 2-to-4 digit code which is a standardized way to identify your transport company. The code stores your information electronically in the database maintained by the national motor freight traffic association.

It is a unique identification number given to your transport company or freight forwarder company. If you are a registered entity, You have to apply for a SCAC if you want to do business with the US government agencies.

Remember that these codes are used across the world for various purposes. You can find your SCAC code in your shipping documents if you are actively involved in the shipping business.

Go through your bill of lading, shipping invoices, and packing lists to locate your code. If you are a part of a 3PL or 4PL supply chain model.

You will need your SCAC code to facilitate your identification if you are an air or ocean carrier company.

Is It Important For You To Carry A Standard Carrier Alpha Code?

You must have a SCAC if you want to do any business with the United States or its governmental agencies.

If you provide any shipping services across the country, you will have to acquire a SCAC number. The code is used by the United States Customs and Board of Protection for various purposes.

The primary use is to monitor the shipping activities of transportation companies. Let’s talk about the 3 important security initiative programs run by the CBP in which the SCAC codes play a very important role:

  • Automated Commercial Environment

The Automated Commercial Environment is a system that is used for lodging import and export shipments.

  • Automated Manifest System

It is used by the border protection program to help them monitor every incoming shipment to the US.

This is useful in reducing any potential security threats that might enter the country through international borders.

  • Pre-Arrival Processing Systems

The Pre-arrival Processing System is used by custom brokers. The SCAC code is combined with the unique identifier number provided by the carrier. Then the processing system generates a barcode as the output.

Supply Chain Management And Your SCAC Code

The standard carrier alpha code is also used in 3PL and 4PL supply chain models. They prove to be very useful for non-US-bound shipments.

Large multinational companies that use third-party and fourth-party logistics providers make use of EDI messages quite frequently.

The EDI messages are routed with the help of their SCAC code that works as their identifier.  This is why the importance of the SCAC code in the supply chain industry is undeniable. It is highly useful for ocean and air carriers as well.

How Do You Get Your SCAC Number?

The process to secure a SCAC code is very simple. You must submit a duly filled application to the NMFTA through registered mail or online registration form available on their website. 

You will be required to give details about your company during the application procedure.

The processing time usually is anywhere between 1 to 2 weeks. The electronic copy gets sent to the CBP after the approval.

Depending upon the type of transport company you run, your SCAC code will end in either of the 3 letters, which are U, X, AND Z.

SCAC Code Renewal

You must renew your SCAC code annually without fail. They remain valid up to 30th June for each succeeding year.

The NMFTA will inform you with an invoice to renew your SCAC number before the expiry date and remain compliant and continue doing business, your SCAC code renewal is something that you should never neglect.



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