June 8, 2023
9 min read
In the trucking and transportation industry, a standardized system for identifying carriers plays an important role, and this is where the Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) proves its significance. The SCAC code serves the purpose of pinpointing carriers for computerized management within the transportation sector. It facilitates carriers’ unique identification and tracking through their assigned code.
A Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) is a unique 2-4 letter code that helps categorize transport companies and carriers. Transportation companies are assigned unique SCAC codes depending on their mode of transport. Any company that conducts business with a United States government agency is required to have a SCAC code.
Specific sets of SCACs are designated for particular purposes. SCAC codes ending with “U” are reserved for identifying freight containers. Those ending with “X” are earmarked for identifying privately owned railroad cars. Additionally, SCAC codes ending with “Z” are exclusively reserved for identifying trailers used in intermodal service.
SCAC codes allow carriers, shippers, brokers, and third-party logistics providers to track and identify specific carriers in their systems and databases. This enables much more efficient communication and data exchange between companies. The codes are required in shipping documents such as the bill of lading and are essential for electronic data interchange. Government agencies within the transportation sector also rely on SCAC codes to monitor and regulate carrier performance and safety.
The United States government agencies mainly use the SCAC code. Its main purpose is to help them oversee carriers that enter and leave the country, allowing them to access essential carrier information. Consequently, all carriers traversing the US border are required to possess a SCAC code for proper identification.
In addition, the SCAC code is mandatory for transportation companies engaged in business with the United States government agencies. For instance, the FDA uses this code to monitor shipment, ensuring it undergoes inspection for potential contamination, bioterrorism threats, and public health emergencies. Meanwhile, CBP uses the SCAC code to facilitate the clearance of the shipment through Customs.
Additionally, numerous commercial shippers rely on the SCAC code for tasks such as auditing freight bills and managing payment systems. This code applies to various industries, including automobile, petroleum, forestry, railroad, and ocean container sectors.
It is easy to apply for a SCAC code. You’ll need to complete an application and send it to the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), along with a certain fee. NMFTA has long permitted freight brokers and carriers to apply online for their SCAC codes. After your application is processed and approved, you’ll receive your SCAC code.
To be eligible for a SCAC code, you must meet the following requirements:
When you submit your application between 3:00 PM EST, Monday through Friday, you can typically expect to receive your SCAC code on the same day, often within two hours. However, if you submit your application after 3:00 PM, while it’s still possible to obtain your SCAC code on the same day, there may be delays, and the exact delivery time cannot be guaranteed.
It is important to note that the time required to get a SCAC code may vary depending on industry-specific factors. Industries like trucking, which experience higher SCAC code requests, may encounter longer processing times. Besides, any application discrepancies or issues can prolong the process.
Freight brokers must get a SCAC to be part of the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement. They must keep this code active annually. Also, to collaborate with certain shippers and customers, having a SCAC code is essential. This applies to various customers, such as commercial shippers in automotive, petroleum, forestry, chemicals, and retail businesses.
The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) is responsible for issuing and managing SCAC, and you can obtain it by following their application process on their official website. When the NMFTA assigns a new SCAC, they must forward the code and associated carrier details to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency per their guidelines. The CBP will then validate the SCAC information in their systems. Generally, carriers must renew SCAC codes every year, with some exceptions.
The SCAC code is essential for efficient and identifiable transportation business operations. SCAC codes are compatible with various computer systems throughout the freight transportation industry, making them versatile and streamlining the entire process. Registering for a SCAC code makes operations much more cost-effective and economical. Whether you are a trucker or a freight broker, the SCAC code is a professional necessity.