Freight Audit Services: Learning About Standard Carrier Alpha Codes


Freight Audit Services: Learning About Standard Carrier Alpha Codes

The transportation industry devised the Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) system to help identify competing companies. Each SCAC identification code ranges between 2 and 4 alphabetical characters long. During the 1960s, The National Motor Freight Traffic Association developed the SCAC system in order to help convert their paper-based documents into computerized records. Freight carriers must use the SCAC system when filing tariffs with the Surface Transportation Board. The United States Department of Customs and Border Protection uses the SCAC system to identify ocean carriers and freight forwarders in their own unique Automated Manifest System, which produces and transmits electronic customs documents and manifests in accordance to the “24 Hours Rule.” In addition, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employs SCAC identification code for tracking imported food. All freight carriers conducting business with the United States government must use the SCAC system, even if the freight comes from the private sector.

In the United States, the transportation industry uses the SCAC system to identify freight carriers with intricate computer systems. More specifically, the petroleum, forest products, transportation suppliers, and automobile industries use the SCAC system to identify freight carriers listed in shipping documents, such as the Purchase Order, Bill of Lading, Packing List, and the Freight Bill. Each of these commercial documents identifies the type, quantity, and price agreement between the buyer and seller. The freight carrier uses these shipping documents to transport the materials to its recorded destination. Other organizations use the SCAC system for the same purposes, such as the United Nations EDIFACT, the Accredited Standards Committee X12, and the American National Standards Institute.

  • Freight carriers refer to bill of ladings as a detailed source of information about the shipment of merchandise. It also assigns a title of that particular shipment to its designated party.

  • Freight carriers usually include a packing list, an itemized document that specifies the type, quantity, description, and weight of the contents in a specific package.

  • Freight carriers refer to purchase orders, commercial documents provided by the buyer to a seller, for a thorough understanding of the types, quantities, and established prices of the contents contained within the shipment.

  • In general, freight carriers who comply with the standards outlined in the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement (UIIA) must maintain their SCAC to the highest acceptable level. The transportation industry reserves certain types of SCACs for specific purposes. For instance, freight cas mark their freight containers with an SCAC identification tag ending with the letter “U.” Railroad freight carriers mark privately owned railroad cars with the SCAC identification tag ending with the letter “X.” The trucking industry marks their truck chassis and trailers, often used in intermodal service, with the SCAC rrieridentification tag ending with the letter “Z.”

  • The Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement (UIIA) promotes intermodal efficiencies through the uniformity of the transportation industry, which governs the interchange of intermodal equipment.

  • The transportation industry assigns specific SCAC codes for different purposes.

  • Freight carriers can obtain SCAC codes by contacting the National Motor Freight Traffic Association.


Follow these links to learn more about Standard Carrier Alpha Codes:



  • Standard Carrier Alpha Codes: The National Motor Freight Traffic Association explains the intricate computerization process of the Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) system.

  • The United States Freight Transportation Handbook (PDF): A sixteen chapter handbook that describes how freight carriers conduct business within the United States.

  • Requirements for Intermodal Equipment Providers: The United States Department of Transportation provides a list of rules and regulations for intermodal equipment providers and the freight carriers who operate the equipment.

  • Sea Carriers: The United States Department of Customs and Border Patrol offers a series of documents that help sea carriers become SCAC compliant.

  • The Uniform Intermodal interchange: The official organization that ensures freight carriers comply with the standards outlined in the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement.

  • About UIIA: The Intermodal Association of North American further explains the requirements meant to become SCAC compliant in accordance to the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement.

  • VICS Standard Bill of Lading: Voluntary Inter-industry Commerce Solutions provides an educational summary of the Bill of Lading, a shipping document that helps freight carriers pinpoint the data items as they pass through various channels and companies.

  • Rules and Regulations for Electronic Bills of Lading: The International Maritime organization provides further explanation of the rules and regulations for the electronic format of the Bill of Lading.

  • The International Trade Compliance Institute: Regulatory Database: The ITCI provides an extensive database of rules and regulations related to the trade and transportation industries.

  • Purchase Order: Oracle defines and explains the main function of a purchase order in the transportation and shipping industry.