What Is SCAC and How Do Carriers Get It?

Debra Edwards - March 30, 2023

As the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, Inc. (NMFTA)™ and the trucking industry roll toward the release of the Standard Carrier Alpha Code™ (SCAC®) 2.0, it’s a good idea to step back and make sure we’re clear on the most basic of questions:

What are SCAC codes, why does anyone need them, and how do you get them?

Established in the 1960s, SCAC stands for Standard Carrier Alpha Code™ These are exclusive two-, three- or four-letter identification codes that are assigned to carriers. NMFTA is the official agency that assigns the codes.

Just for example, here are some SCAC codes you may be familiar with:

  • FedEx LTL Freight West is FXFW.
  • National Express Logistics is NXPL.
  • United Parcel Service has several, including UPSN, UPSS, UPSC, and UPSZ.

A carrier’s SCAC identifier is required for a wide variety of functions. The codes are recognized by the American National Standards Institute’s Accredited Standards Committee, as well as by the United Nations for electronic data interchange transactions.

So, for example, if a carrier needs to issue an 856 Advance Ship Notice or an 850 Purchase Order for motor, rail, or water transactions, the carrier’s SCAC identifier will serve as the required identification.

A SCAC is also required for tariffs filed with the Surface Transportation Board, as well as for processing through the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also requires a SCAC for carriers engaging with its Prior Notice System Interface (PNSI) for the tracking of imported food.

And carriers will definitely need a SCAC to do business with U.S. government agencies and with many commercial shippers, including those in the automotive, petroleum, forest products, and chemical industries.

All of this really just scratches the surface. For a wide variety of reasons, carriers need to have a SCAC.

Products under the SCAC heading include:

  • SCAC Online, which is web-based and provides for easy lookup and friendly search functions.
  • SCAC Data Distribution, which provides a daily distribution of SCAC codes service via e-mail, including those that have been added, canceled, or changed over the course of the previous day.
  • SCAC Web Service, which allows subscribers to incorporate SCAC search and information retrieval directly into their computer systems.

Having a SCAC identifier is vital to any carrier. Fortunately, they are very easy to get.

NMFTA has long permitted carriers to apply online for their codes, and that is still possible. But it will become even easier with the April 10 release of SCAC 2.0, when applicants will be able to complete their applications and receive their codes digitally in real time.

SCAC codes are essential to carriers. That’s why NMFTA is doing everything possible to make it easy to get, easy to manage, easy to renew, and easy to pay for.

If you have any SCAC-related questions, click here for additional information.

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.