The SCAC code is an identification number for carriers in the US. With the SCAC code, you can automate shipment updates and increase your efficiency.

If you’ve ended up here, chances are you’re planning to ship goods in the US. And you’ve been asked to submit the SCAC code as a mandatory requirement. So, what is this SCAC code after all? 

As a carrier or a shipper, you’ve to constantly deal with the stress of managing documents and updating stakeholders about the status of your shipment. What if we tell you that SCAC code is the key to making your logistics effortless? 

You won’t have to deal with the stress of sorting out papers, getting on calls, or writing emails. With SCAC code, you can do all that automatically through a computerized system. 

Let’s look at what SCAC code is, how you can get it, and most importantly, how you can use it to automate complex and time-consuming processes. 

What is SCAC Code? 

SCAC code on a container

Standard Carrier Alpha Code (or SCAC Code) is a unique 2 to 4-letter code used to identify carriers and transportation companies. It was developed in the 1960s by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) to computerize information and records. 

The SCAC code of your carrier service registers your shipping document with a computer system. As a result, your freight bills, bills of lading, packing lists, and purchase orders get digitized for easy access. This means you and your stakeholders don’t have to courier documents back-and-forth. If your computer system is optimized to use SCAC, you can simply access them with a click!

Now that the documents are available so easily and quickly, you can track the shipment at every stage of the journey. It makes tracking so seamless that SCAC has become mandatory in the US. Today, the SCAC code is used to monitor transportation companies across modes: motor, rail, and water. 

Who needs a SCAC Code? 

carrier in US

The SCAC code is primarily used by US government agencies, including the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The code helps the customs to monitor the carriers entering the country by accessing necessary information from the documents. So, all the carriers crossing the border need SCAC code to identify themselves to CBP. 

In fact, the SCAC code is required by all the transportation companies doing business with the US government agencies. Let’s understand this by an example. 

Let’s say you import coconut milk to the US. To get your coconut milk across the border, you have to provide your carrier’s SCAC code to the US authorities such as the Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) and CBP. The FDA will track the shipment to inspect coconut milk for contamination, bioterrorism, and public health emergencies. And the CBP will use the code to clear it from the customs. 

Many commercial shippers also use the SCAC code for freight bill audits and payment systems. The code is used in automobile, petroleum, forestry, railroad, and ocean container industries.

SCAC groups for specific purposes

Certain groups of SCACs denote specific types of companies. 

  • Codes ending with ‘U’ indicate freight containers.
  • Codes ending with ‘X’ indicate privately owned railroad cars.
  • Codes ending with ‘Z’ indicate truck chassis and trailers used in intermodal service.

How to get a SCAC Code?

The SCAC code is assigned by NMFTA. If you’re looking to get the code, you can apply on NMFTA’s website, or post your application to their Alexandria, VA office. The application fee is $84. Once the process is completed, you’ll receive the SCAC code certificate via email within 24 hours during business days. 

There are a few exceptions. The NMFTA doesn’t provide the code for freight containers also used outside North America, intermodal chassis and trailers, non-railroad owned rail cars, and railroads.

For freight containers also operating outside North America

If your containers also operate outside the region, you should contact Bureau International des Containers (BIC), France. 

SCAC Code list 

SCAC codes for carriers are easily available online. Let’s look at the SCAC codes of some of the biggest international carriers.

Carrier Name (Abbreviation) Carrier Name  SCAC Code
MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company  MSCU 
CMA CGM Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement Compagnie Generale Maritime CMDU 
COSCO COSCO Container Lines COSU 
Hapag Lloyd Hapag Lloyd Container Line HLCU 
Maersk  Maersk Line MAEU 

You can see how the SCAC codes of the carriers are ending with ‘U’ since they operate freight containers. 

Now that we have an idea of what SCAC code is, let’s look at how it’s used in the shipping industry. 

Use SCAC code to automate your work in shipping 

We mentioned earlier that the SCAC code computerized the transportation industry. And one of the ways it brought about the change was by registering the shipping documents with a computer system. How does it do that? 

It’s facilitated by a computerized communication system called Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI is a computer-to-computer exchange of business documents between business partners and stakeholders. It allows a paperless transfer of important information in a common language between sender and receiver.

How EDI integration works with the help of SCAC code

You can share many kinds of documents via EDI. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Purchase orders
  • Invoices
  • Advance ship notices
  • Bill of lading
  • Customs documents
  • Inventory documents
  • Shipping status documents
  • Payment documents

When you use the EDI system, you’ll be able to reduce costs and errors by replacing postal mail, fax, and email. It improves efficiency and the relationship with business partners. 

Whether you are a freight forwarder or carrier or work at a container depot, you know that updating customers is time-consuming. What’s the container release status? Any changes to the ETA? Have you updated the sales offers? Checked the leasing offers? And so the questions continue raining down on you.

Now, let’s imagine that you no longer have the stress of hundreds of phone calls and emails ticking in asking for those updates. Instead, customers can check everything online. Wouldn’t that make your life easier?

You can now make that your reality with xChange Connect. xChange Connect links your system to the xChange platform. That way your leasing offers are automatically updated – and if you’re more into trading, it creates your sales offers automatically.

Connecting with xChange digitizes and automates many of your manual processes, including updating sales and leasing offers. It also keeps track of your shipments and their statuses. Want to learn more? Click on the banner below and get in touch with our team.

SCAC code and EDI integration

Who uses EDI shipping?

Freight forwarders, NVOCCs, customs brokers, and customs officers are the most common groups in the shipping industry using the EDI system. You can use the EDI integration to automatically update ETAs, release statuses, and share documents. To know more EDI shipping, click here

Different types of data are transferred with different methods of EDI. The two most common standards of EDI are: 

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

FTP is one of the oldest methods of transferring files from one network to another. In the shipping industry, these files mainly refer to the transmission of shipping data among others. 


UN/EDIFACT is used to communicate between sender and receiver of different countries and languages. As the name suggests, the mode was developed by the United Nations. 

Now, let’s see how you can benefit from using EDI. 

Benefits of using EDI integration and SCAC Code

The logistics industry faces challenges when it comes to efficiency and transparency. The lack of communication between different parties within the supply chain often creates hurdles. As a result, the SCAC codes came into play in the 1960s to gain control and track the movement of goods.

When integrated with EDI technology, the SCAC code has been able to provide transparency and efficient communication. There are many benefits of using EDI in the shipping industry. It streamlines data flow and ensures quicker response time. Let’s briefly look at some of the benefits. 

Benefits of using EDI in the shipping industry

Automated handling and storage of data 

Once your system is linked with EDI, you can automatically enter and update data. From generation, sending, reception recording to storing of exchanged documents, every step of the process is done automatically. 

Faster and error-free processing

Since you don’t need to manually enter data, the chances of errors become nil. This also makes the documentation and data processing faster and efficient.

Real-time information

You can access real-time information with EDI integration. This helps avoid possible delays in sending or receiving data/documents.

Integrated communication system 

With EDI, you can now have an integrated communication system in place for all your shipping operations. The one communication flow ensures traceability, integrated transactions such as purchase orders, order receipts, invoices, pending payments, and more.

Improves trading partner relations 

Since EDI integration streamlines data flow and improves efficiency, your relationship with business partners will improve. It also reduces response time. 

Streamlines communication in intermodal transportation

You can also establish a single communication flow for your entire intermodal operation, right from the seaport to land.

Increase efficiency by EDI integration with xChange

Giving and receiving updates on containers and shipments is almost a full-time job. A full-time job, you have to take care of next to all your other responsibilities at work. Now, imagine you could use that mandatory SCAC code and EDI integration to ease your workload.

With xChange Connect, we link your system with xChange to automatically transmit data and reduce your manual and repetitive tasks. That way your leasing offers are automatically updated on the platform – and so are your sales offers. 

Your customers can also go onto xChange and check the status of the shipments through detailed track and trace reports. All the information they’d be looking for is readily available for them online on xChange. Where you can also get notifications when there’s a container event – such as ETA’s, pick-up, and returns. 

Automating your container logistics can save you time, money and get more satisfied customers. 

Want to learn how your SCAC code and EDI integration can leave you with more satisfied customers and ease your workload? Click on the banner below and get in touch with our expert team. They’ll happily show you the platform and explain the benefits of xChange Connect.

SCAC code and EDI integration

How do I find my SCAC Code?

You can find your SCAC Code by applying for it on National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA)’s website.

Do all carriers have SCAC Code?

All carriers entering and operating in the US have SCAC Codes.

Is SCAC Code mandatory?

The SCAC Code is mandatory for all transportation companies and carriers entering and operating in the US.

How much is a SCAC Code?

The application fees for SCAC Code by National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) is $84.

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What is Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC Code)? | Complete Guide
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What is Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC Code)? | Complete Guide
SCAC code is an identification number for carriers in the US. Read to find how you can receive your shipment updates automatically with SCAC.
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