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Standard Carrier Alpha Codes

Discover the world of SCAC codes, essential in transportation. Learn why SCACs matter, who needs them, and the benefits they offer.

What are SCAC Codes? 

The Standard Carrier Alpha Code (or SCAC Code) is a unique two-to-four-letter code used to identify transportation companies.

In the 1960s, NMFTA developed SCAC identification codes to help facilitate computerization in the transportation industry. Codes are assigned for almost all companies. The exception is for those used to identify freight containers that do not exclusively operate in North America. This includes intermodal chassis and trailers, non-railroad-owned rail cars, and railroads.

The SCACs are used by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Accredited Standards Committee (ASC), United Nations Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), and for all motor, rail, and water carrier transactions where carrier ID is required. 

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Who needs SCAC codes?

SCACs are required for tariffs filed with the Surface Transportation Board (SBT). The use of SCACs has been mandated by the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the Automated Commerical Environment (ACE), Automated Manifest (AMS), and pre-arrival-processing systems.

SCACs are required for business with all US government agencies and commercial shippers. Agencies and shippers include automobile, petroleum, forest products, and chemical industries, tracking imported food (FDA), and even retail businesses and carriers involved with railroad piggyback trailers and ocean container drayage.

Also, carriers who use the (UIIA) Uniform Intermodal Interchange Facilities Access Agreement must keep a valid SCAC. It is common for commercial shippers and receivers to utilize SCACs in their freight bill payment systems. 

 

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History of SCAC codes

SCACs were invented to fulfill the need to create a standardized system for carrier identification for shipping and logistics documents. Before the use of SCACs, a variety of other methods were used to identify transportation companies. The methods used were not standardized, which created inconsistencies and confusion when identifying. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) developed the SCAC system. The system was designed to streamline communication and documentation in the industry. 

The SCAC codes are used on various shipping documents, including bills of lading, freight bills, and shipping manifests. Each code is unique to the carrier and not duplicated, preventing confusion in different contexts. SCAC codes have helped improve the accuracy and efficiency of logistics and transportation processes. As technology has advanced with electronic data interchange (EDI), information such as SCAC codes could be exchanged electronically between various entities within the supply chain, making it even easier to identify transportation companies. 

Currently, the NMFTA still manages and updates the SCAC system, ensuring the SCAC codes stay unique and reflect the evolution of the logistics industry. SCACs have become standard practice, and the codes are recognized internationally. 

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How to Find a SCAC

SCAC codes are used for specific purposes.

  • Codes ending in the letter “U” are used to identify freight containers
  • Codes ending in “X” are used to identify privately owned railroad cars.
  • Codes ending in the letter “Z” identify truck chassis and trailers used in intermodal service.

 

The SCAC code can be found in various places, so it is good to know where to look when you need to find it. 

The SCAC codes can be found in shipping documents, such as bills of lading, freight bills, or shipping manifests from the transportation company.

Another way to determine the SCAC is to contact the carrier or transportation company directly. Databases can also be an excellent resource. Specific online databases and directories compile SCAC data. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) has an online lookup tool to look up codes for particular carriers.

SCAC Code List For Common Carriers

Here is a list of the SCAC Codes for some of the biggest carriers.

AAA Cooper: AACT

ABF Freight: ABFS

Averitt Express: AVRT

XPO Logistics: CNWY

Xpress Global: XGSI

DHE: DPHE

Bolt Express: BXPE

Daylight: DYLT

Estes Express: EXLA

Old Dominion: ODFL

 

FAQS

Q: How do I obtain an SCAC code for my company? 

A: To obtain an SCAC code, contact the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). The NMFTA will create and assign SCAC codes for eligible transportation companies. 

Q: Can a company have more than one SCAC code?

A: Yes, companies can have more than one SCAC code. This can happen when companies operate under different divisions or services in various transportation modes (trucking and rail). 

Q: How often do SCAC codes change?

A: SCAC codes stay mostly the same and remain stable over time. Despite this, if a company has a significant change in structure or operations, a new SCAC code is usually assigned. 

Q: Can SCAC codes be used internationally?

A: Yes, SCAC codes can be used internationally. These codes help with identification when shipping across borders. 

Q: Are SCAC codes required for all transportation companies?

A: SCAC codes are not mandatory but are widely used. They help with standardization and efficiency with documentation in the logistics industry. 

Q: Can SCAC codes be used for tracking shipments?

A: SCAC codes are not used for tracking shipments but are included in many shipping documents. Tracking is done using shipping tracking numbers provided by carriers. 

Q: How long does it take to get a SCAC code?

A:  It is important to remember that the time required to obtain a SCAC code may differ based on industry-specific factors. Industries such as trucking may have more SCAC code applications, resulting in longer processing times. Moreover, if there are any discrepancies or issues with your application, it may further delay the timeline. To expedite the process, staying proactive and promptly responding to any inquiries from the NMFTA is recommended.

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