June 9, 2023

What Is a SCAC Code and How Is It Used?

A Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) is a unique identification number that is attributed to registered freight carriers.

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association Inc (NMFTA) requires all freight containers and carriers entering and operating in the US to have a Standard Carrier Alpha Code or SCAC code to properly identify transportation companies.

This code is required for automated information computer systems, and it offers the ability to quickly identify, track, and manage freight shipments. If you’re new to the transportation industry, here’s all you need to know about SCAC codes.

What is a SCAC code? 

A SCAC code stands for Standard Carrier Alpha Code, a coding system set forth by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA).

A unique two- to four-letter code is assigned to all the transportation companies entering and operating in the United States to identify carriers through:

  • electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions
  • intermodal interchange agreements (such as the UIIA)
  • computerized, freight-and-passenger-transportation payment systems (Cass Information Systems, CorPay Solutions, Inc., etc.)

Who needs a SCAC code? 

All freight carriers and transportation companies entering and operating in the United States need the relevant SCAC codes to comply with the NMFTA regulations. This also includes any shipper using a third-party carrier and broker services that require a unique code.

However, an exception goes for codes used to identify freight containers not operating exclusively in North America, Intermodal Chassis and trailers, privately owned railroad cars, and railroads.

Is the SCAC code mandatory?

Regarding the following, yes. Government agencies have mandated the use of SCAC codes:

  • United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for its Automated Manifest System (AMS), Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS), and Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) System.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Prior Notice System Interface (PNSI) for properly tracking imported food

The SCAC code is also mandatory for all commercial transportation companies and freight carriers doing business with US government agencies to transport petroleum products, forest products, automobiles, and chemicals.

A SCAC code is also required for freight carriers who utilize the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement (UIIA, which is also known as the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).

This also includes vessel-operating common carriers, intermodal equipment, and freight forwarders.

Is the SCAC code required for ocean container industries?

Yes, the SCAC code is required for ocean carrier industries and any other industry that requires an EDI transaction. The same process for obtaining a SCAC code applies to ocean carriers.

How do SCAC codes work in logistics and shipping?

In logistics and shipping, the unique SCAC code provided by the NMFTA ensures that the goods are properly identified during transit. Typically, the process is:

  • The shipper enters the SCAC code provided by the carrier and submits it to their customer. This acts as confirmation of the contracted carrier.
  • The customer uses this code to track the progress of the goods.
  • When the goods arrive at their destination, the customer can use this code to identify them.
  • The SCAC code is also used by customs to ensure that they are dealing with a legitimate carrier.

How do I get a SCAC code?

If you need assistance with the SCAC code application, it can be done online via DOT Compliance Group’s website. You only need to provide your:

  • carrier company information
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) information: US-DOT number, MC number, MX number, FF number, etc.

Your SCAC code will then be provided within 24 hours during business days.

How much is a SCAC code?

The cost for new SCAC code applications can vary depending on which service you use.

When do you renew your SCAC code?

For new applications, you have the option to subscribe to auto-renewal. Each SCAC code is due for renewal 365 days from the assignment date.

SCAC Code list 

The SCAC code list is published by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). It’s available through the SCAC Online website, although you need an account to access it.

The following are examples of known freight carriers and their SCAC codes:

  • BLOJ – Bridge Logistics
  • BNAF – BAX GLOBAL (air)
  • COSU – China Ocean Shipping Lines
  • FDCC – FedEx Custom Critical
  • FDE – FedEx Express (AIR)
  • USNW – US Northwest Express or USNW Express

SCAC coding letters

SCAC codes generally end in any letter; however, certain letters are reserved for specific types.

Codes ending in “X” signify privately owned railroad cars.

Codes ending in “U” identify freight containers.

Codes ending in “Z” are reserved for truck chassis and trailers used in intermodal service.

How do I find my SCAC code?

You can search for your SCAC code here. You can also request to download the SCAC code list by mail at the NMFTA. The information is accessible quarterly or daily. The SCAC code list is also available via the SCAC Web Service site.

What is EDI shipping?

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) shipping is a process that allows companies to exchange shipping documents electronically.

It’s used most commonly in the transportation industry to transmit data between shippers, carriers, and third-party logistics providers.

What are considered EDI documents?

EDI documents include but are not limited to the following:

  • Bill of lading: an agreement between a shipper and a carrier for the transportation of goods
  • Freight invoice: billing information sent to customers who pay for the freight shipped
  • EDI manifests: a list of products that are being shipped from one location to another
  • Proof of delivery (POD): a document verifying that the goods have been delivered to their destination
  • Purchase orders: an order from a buyer to the seller to purchase goods
  • Electronic import customs clearance: a document that allows customs authorities to clear goods for import quicker

For each EDI document, the SCAC code is required. Using a SCAC code, the EDI document can be tracked and processed quickly and efficiently.

SCAC codes and EDI integration in supply management

SCAC codes are essential for efficient supply chain management. They help streamline operations by allowing organizations to accurately identify and track shipments without manually entering data.

The use of SCAC codes and EDI shipping facilitates communication between shippers, carriers, customs agencies, and other stakeholders in the supply chain.

It helps eliminate paperwork and reduce costs associated with manual processes, which leads to improved customer service and satisfaction.

Use a SCAC code and integration to automate shipping 

The Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) is an important part of the transportation industry. Coupled with EDI integration, SCAC codes can help automate the shipping process, making it faster and more efficient.

By using a SCAC code and EDI integration, shippers can have peace of mind knowing that their goods are in safe hands and will be delivered on time.

Take your transportation operations to the next level with SCAC codes and EDI integration. If you need further assistance, DOT Compliance Group can lend you a hand.

DOT Compliance Group can help with finding, verifying, and updating your SCAC code. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can help you streamline your shipping operations.



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