Whether you are an employee attempting to keep track of the products your company is shipping across the country or around the world, or you spend hours driving on the highway and are simply curious about the codes you see on trucks traveling down the roadway, you have probably asked yourself the question, "What are SCAC codes?" In order to truly discover the meaning of these unique sets of numbers found on virtually every piece of freight on the road, rails or sea, you will need to know the background behind these identifying digits and the purpose for which they were invented.
What are SCAC codes?
An SCAC code-also known as a standard carrier alpha code-is a type of code that is used to identify each individual transportation company with freight on the move. The codes are typically four digits in length and contain all letters and no numbers. SCAC codes were the brainchild of the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, which developed a series of such codes in the 1960s when the transportation industry began computerizing records of commerce. Although the codes are most commonly found on freight carriers containing chemicals, imported food items, petroleum and forest products, the automobile industry and retail companies also have begun to identify their freight using SCAC codes. These codes come in particularly handy when freight is crossing the borders between countries or traveling overseas, as customs and border protection crews can easily identify the transportation company shipping the carrier.
How SCAC codes are assigned
Companies cannot request the alphabetical digits their SCAC code will be comprised of-each code is unique to the company carrying freight and is assigned based on the company's name. SCAC codes always start with the first letter of the first word in a company's name. The middle digits vary depending on other factors; however, the last digit in the SCAC code indicate the specific purpose for which the container is being used. For example, SCAC codes that end in the letter "U" are assigned to freight containers, whereas codes ending in the letter "X" are assigned to railroad cars that are privately owned. Truck chassis and trailers that are used in intermodal service are commonly identified by codes that end in the letter "Z."
How to get an SCAC code
To be assigned an SCAC code for carriers transporting products across the United States and beyond, a company must first fill out an application. Once the information on the application has been approved and validated, a unique four-digit code will be assigned to the company and can then be stenciled onto the carrier, container, chassis or trailer. The cost for receiving an SCAC code is $64. Those searching for the transportation company responsible for carrying a specific container can search the Directory of Standard Carrier Alpha Codes, a list that is compiled on a quarterly basis.