As a motor carrier, you may have stared at your computer screen, where a government form or business contract directed you to enter your name or carrier identity… and then offered only a few blanks to fill in that information… far too short for your company name or your USDOT number. What the form is seeking is your SCAC.

SCAC is the Standard Carrier Alpha Code, a unique two- to four-letter code used to identify transportation companies. In the mid-1960s, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) saw the need for a short code to identify motor, rail, and water carriers in their electronic communications. NMFTA developed the SCAC in response.

The SCAC is a standard requirement in many commercial situations:

  • An SCAC is required when doing business with all U.S. government agencies.
  • An SCAC is required by many commercial shippers in the automobile, forest product, and chemical and petroleum industries.
  • An SCAC is required for motor carriers who perform ocean container drayage or have railroad piggyback operations.
  • An SCAC is required for any transportation company utilizing the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement (UIIA), which is a standard industry contract outlining equipment interchange rules between intermodal trucking companies and equipment providers.

U.S.- based motor carriers who conduct cross-border operations into Canada and Mexico should pay special attention to obtaining and renewing their Standard Carrier Alpha Codes. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), Automated Manifest (AMS) and Pre-Arrival Processing (PAPS) Systems require a current SCAC.

As a computer code, the SCAC meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) criteria and is approved by the United Nations Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport (EDIFACT) for electronic data interchange – it is a legitimate and recognized means of identifying your company electronically.

NMFTA issues Standard Carrier Alpha Codes and maintains the list of valid holders. Motor carriers can apply for or renew an SCAC here: The current cost is $87, renewable annually. Standard Carrier Alpha Codes which are not renewed will lapse after three years and be reassigned to another company.

When do you need an SCAC? More times than you may think.

The PrePass blog and podcasts are published as a public service of PrePass®, the most reliable and technologically advanced weigh station bypass and integrated electronic trucking toll payment platform in North America. PrePass also includes INFORM™ Safety and INFORM™ Tolling software for improving truck safety scores and lowering toll costs.