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SCAC Code: US Border Crossing

If you’re a trucker or carrier transporting  across the US border, you will likely hear about the SCAC (Standard Carrier Alpha Code). Exporters and importers dealing with a US government agency use this code in order to get shipments across the border quickly and safely. Shippers refer to this code when preparing documents for transport, to specify the carrier. You will probably come across this code at some point in your career, which is why knowing a few key aspects to the SCAC will save you both time and money.

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What is a SCAC Code? 

A SCAC code is a two to four letter code used in identifying transportation companies. It is used by CBP or US customs to identify companies. This code is unique to each company or freight carrier.

Most companies use the SCAC for billing and shipping documents, to increase efficiency. Once your information is in the system, the bill of lading, purchase orders and other documentation is available in one system for the company to access and use for tracking shipments at each phase of the transport. It digitizes a lot of your documents.

How do I find my SCAC code? 

The SCAC is used with the ACE manifest and PAPS systems, as shippers use it to prepare documents specifying the carrier who is transporting the goods. Since the SCAC is unique for each freight carrier, it will be on the shipping documents. This means your bill of lading and purchase orders will likely have the SCAC on them. If you are using a carrier to transport goods, then the paperwork pertaining to the movement contains the SCAC, usually on top of the document. 

The code is most frequently seen in LTL shipping. The SCAC code will usually begin with the first letter of your company name, unless your company name is your actual name, in which case it would be the first letter of your last name. You can also apply for multiple separate codes if you are undertaking different operations, for instance if you do both carrier and freight forwarding. For example, Fedex Express has a SCAC code of FDEN meanwhile Fedex Freight is FXFE.  Simple! 

  • The NMFTA website also has a directory of all the codes, displaying active and inactive ones, which is updated quarterly, but it does require a paid subscription. 

Do I need a SCAC code?

The code is a requirement for all carriers dealing with a US government agency or CBP. This is what the CBP use to validate shipments. In order to cross the border into the United States, a SCAC code is then required.

  • This means that SCAC is a requirement for most shippers or companies operating within, or entering the US. 

How much does a SCAC code cost?  How long does it take to get a SCAC code? 

The SCAC costs usually $97 USD, meaning it will cost around $105-107 CAD if drawn from a Canadian bank.

You can get your SCAC code usually within the same day Monday through Friday (before 3PM EST), and taking no more than 24 hours.  You can apply online on the NMFTA (National Motor Freight Traffic Association) web page. You can also apply to renew. You will receive your code through email. You can also apply for regular paper mail but it will take slightly longer.

Once you have your SCAC code, it will remain valid for the year until July 1 next year; this means you do need to renew it once a year or annually. Now, you are ready to hit the road!