Do I Need a SCAC? Probably, So Let’s Look at the Details

Debra Edwards - April 27, 2023

Since the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, Inc.’s (NMFTA)™ system for the management of Standard Carrier Alpha Codes (SCAC) has significantly changed with the April 10, 2023 launch of the new SCAC system, we’ve had more than the usual spotlight recently on SCAC.

As a reminder, SCAC are the exclusive three- or four-letter identification codes assigned by NMFTA to carriers. In a recent blog we offered some examples, such as FXFW for FedEx LTL Freight West and NXPL for National Express Logistics.

With all of this in mind, we find it perfectly reasonable for any trucking company to ask: Do I need a SCAC?

Some may not.

If all you do is transport your own goods from Point A to Point B on a local basis – without entering ports and without dealing with the federal government or with commercial shippers – you may not need one.

But there are many reasons a trucking company would need a SCAC. So let’s take a look at what those might be.

  • If you cross the border and go through customs, you need a SCAC. Especially to participate in Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), Automated Manifest System (AMS), Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS), and the Surface Transportation Board (formerly Interstate Commerce Commission) tariff filing system.
  • If you do business with U.S. government agencies, including the Surface Deployment Distribution Command (SDDC), you need a SCAC.
  • If you do business with commercial shippers – including but not limited to those in the automotive, petroleum, forest products and chemical industries – you need a SCAC.
  • If you’re a supplier to major retailers like Walmart, Target, or Amazon and engaging in railroad piggyback trailer or ocean container drayage, you need a SCAC. (A piggyback trailer is a truck trailer on a railroad flatcar, normally used for long-distance shipping. Container drayage connects modes of shipping such as ocean freight, air freight and ground transport.)
  • If you enter ports and want to register with state port authorities, you need a SCAC.
  • If you use the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement (UIIA), which provides coverage for general liability, auto liability and workers compensation, you need a SCAC. You also need a SCAC to receive a UIIA agency code.

So do you need a SCAC? Probably. But once you review the bulleted list above, there should be no doubt what the answer is.

If you do find yourself needing one, here’s where to start the process of getting it.

Debra Edwards
Debra Edwards

NMFTA's Senior Manager of Business Development, Debra Edwards, oversees the association's widely-used products such as Standard Carrier Alpha Code™ (SCAC®) and its related SCAC Data products such as: SCAC Online, SCAC Web Service, SCAC Daily Distribution Service and Quarterly Distribution Service.