Standard Carrier Alpha Code (CBP)

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This article is part of the Customs Compliance Guide and the Customs Glossary Guide
The Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) logo

A Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) is a unique two-to-four-letter code assigned to transportation companies engaged in various modes of transportation, including motor, rail, ocean, and air carriers. The SCAC serves as an essential identifier for carriers in logistics and trade operations. This article defines the Standard Carrier Alpha Code, explores its usage scenarios, and outlines its significant role in importing shipments to the United States.

What is a Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC)?

The Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) is a standardized identifier used in the transportation industry to uniquely distinguish carriers and transportation companies. Each SCAC consists of two to four uppercase letters and is assigned by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) in the United States. The SCAC helps facilitate smooth logistics operations, communication between stakeholders, and compliance with regulatory requirements.

For carriers crossing the border into the U.S., the SCAC is required to be the beginning of the trip number of their ACE eManifest, as well as the beginning of any Shipment Control Number being used to identify freight.

Usage Scenarios of Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC):

Freight Transportation:

Scenario: A manufacturing company in Mexico is shipping goods to a distributor in the United States using a third-party trucking company. SCAC Usage: The trucking company providing transportation services to move the goods from Mexico to the United States will use its unique SCAC when submitting shipping documents, invoices, and other required information to the U.S. customs authorities and stakeholders involved in the logistics chain. Ocean Shipping:

Scenario: An exporter in China is sending a shipment of electronics to a port in the United States via an ocean carrier. SCAC Usage: The ocean carrier responsible for transporting the electronics will use its SCAC on the bill of lading and other shipping documents. This allows customs officials and port authorities in the U.S. to quickly identify the carrier and process the shipment efficiently. Air Cargo Transportation:

Scenario: An importer in Canada is receiving an urgent shipment of perishable goods from Europe via an air cargo carrier. SCAC Usage: The air cargo carrier will use its SCAC on the air waybill and other relevant documentation. This ensures that customs clearance and cargo handling processes at the U.S. airport are expedited to meet the time-sensitive nature of the shipment.

Role of Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) in Importing Shipments to the U.S.:

Efficient Data Exchange: The SCAC enables seamless and efficient exchange of information between carriers, freight forwarders, customs brokers, and other stakeholders involved in the importation process. It streamlines communication and data processing, reducing delays and improving logistics efficiency.

Customs Clearance and Compliance: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires the use of SCACs on import documentation to identify carriers and transportation providers. The SCAC aids CBP in verifying the legitimacy of carriers and ensuring compliance with customs regulations.

Supply Chain Visibility: By including the SCAC on shipping documents, the importing party can easily track the movement of the shipment through various stages of transportation. This visibility helps importers and logistics companies to plan and manage their supply chains effectively.

Risk Management: Customs authorities and regulatory agencies can utilize SCACs to conduct risk assessments on incoming shipments. This aids in identifying high-risk cargo, enhancing border security, and ensuring national safety.


The Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) serves as a fundamental identifier in the transportation and logistics industry, distinguishing carriers engaged in various modes of transportation. Its usage in shipping documentation for importing shipments to the United States streamlines logistics operations, facilitates customs clearance, enhances supply chain visibility, and supports efficient data exchange between stakeholders. The SCAC's critical role in the importation process underscores its importance as a standard tool for ensuring smooth and secure trade operations.