Use of Standard Carrier Alpha Code in Shipping

Understanding the Role of Standard Carrier Alpha Code in Shipping

Standard carrier alpha code in shipping is a unique identifier given to shipping carriers and transport companies to allow seamless trade with the US. This code is a fundamental component of the transport and logistics industry that helps standardise the identification of all shipping carriers associated with the US import and export business. It facilitates communication and improves supply chain agility. Let us learn more about the use of standard carrier alpha code. 

Importance of customs & border protection (CBP) 

Customs & border protection in the US refers to the federal agency that safeguards the US borders by ensuring a legal movement of people and goods across the border. CBP exists to ensure national security, implement the trade laws formed by the government, and regulate the movement of goods and individuals in and out of the country’s borders. Since the US is the largest exporter and the second largest importer of goods globally, it is natural that the country witnesses a heavy cargo flow throughout the day. It is essential to monitor all trade activities to prevent any illicit activities. CBP follows a comprehensive approach and plays a significant role in the import-export trade.  

The functions of customs and border protection in shipping are as follows- 

  1. Securing the border against any illegal activities such as human trafficking, smuggling, and weapon exchange.  
  2. Ensuring all goods entering the border adhere to the customs and trade regulations. 
  3. Collecting duties, tariffs, and taxes on imported goods if applicable. 

The CBP maintains safe trade by attesting to the trade documents provided by the shipping carrier or exporter at the customs checkpost. The standard carrier alpha code in shipping is one of the details the CBP checks. Let us learn more about SCAC in shipping. 

About standard carrier alpha code in shipping  

The standard carrier alpha code or the SCAC in shipping is a unique code assigned to every shipping carrier in the US. This two to four-letter code is allotted to transportation companies for easy identification. All letters are kept in capital letters and range between 2-4 letters. The SCAC was developed by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) in the 1960s to facilitate transport companies’ computerisation of their data. For many years, the standard alpha carrier code has been used by shipping carriers as a vital part of shipping documents. Although used mainly by trucking companies, it is also applicable to other modes of transport, such as trains, ships, and planes. There are different types of standard carrier alpha codes in shipping. Let us learn more about them. 

Examples of standard carrier alpha code 

Transport carriers have their codes to distinguish them from others. There is a long list of SCAC available, a few of which are as follows- 

  1. FedEx Freight Corporation: FXFE 
  2. United Parcel Service (UPS): UPSN 
  3. Maersk Line: MAEU 
  4. CMA CGM Group: CMDU 
  5. Delta Air Lines Cargo: DALC 
  6. DHL Global Forwarding: DHGF 
  7. COSCO Shipping Lines: COSU 
  8. Maersk Line: MAEU 
  9. China Eastern Airlines Cargo: CES 
  10. British Airways World Cargo: BAWC 

These codes are noted in shipping documents and rechecked at border posts by customs. For example- If a manufacturing company wants their goods transported from Mexico to the United States, they may hire a 3PL service provider such as a trucking company. Now, while submitting documents to the US customs authorities and other logistics service providers, the trucking company must mention its unique SCAC in all invoices and documents. The automated manifest system (AMS) in shipping is used to submit documents electronically to the CBP before reaching or crossing the US border.  

What is a SCAC code used for? 

The Standard Carrier Alpha Code is used for various purposes in the logistics and transportation industry. 

  • It acts as an identifier for transport companies involved in the logistics and trade business. 
  • It helps distinguish various shipping carriers and transport companies that operate different modes of transport, such as trucks, ships, trains or planes. 
  • SCAC is part of all shipping documents, such as invoices and bills of lading. EDI in supply chain management helps in paperless documentation of invoices and bills of lading. 
  • It also helps in tracking the movement of goods during transportation. Customs authorities and other organisations can locate the goods using its unique SCAC. 
  • SCAC is used across the global logistics and transportation industry to enhance accuracy, efficiency, and communication throughout the supply chain. 

Benefits of SCAC in shipping 

The advantages of standard carrier alpha code in shipping are as follows- 

  1. Eases communication– SCAC allows effective and seamless data exchange between logistics parties such as shipping carriers, customs brokers, freight forwarders, and other stakeholders that are associated with the transportation process. This helps in streamlining the communication process at various stages in shipping. 
  2. Supply chain agility – Faster communication and data exchange help reduce delays and improve logistics operations, impacting and enhancing supply chain agility. 
  3. Facilitates customs clearance and adheres to regulation– The US CBP requires shipping carriers or shippers to submit proper documents concerning the import of goods. SCAC is one of the crucial pieces of information the CBP requires to identify the legitimacy of shipment. The SCAC of a trusted logistics provider helps validate compliance with customs regulations. 
  4. Offers supply chain visibility—Including the standard carrier alpha code in shipping documents allows the importing party to monitor the shipment of goods throughout its transit. This allows importers and logistics companies to efficiently plan and manage their supply chains. 
  5. Risk management– The US CBP can use the SCAC to inspect the incoming goods for potential risks. It helps identify high-risk cargo and ensures border and national security. 

Standard Carrier Alpha Code groups 

The SCAC groups are used to signify specific types of companies- 

  • SCAC that ends with “U” denotes freight containers. 
  • SCAC that ends with “X” denotes privately owned railroad cars. 
  • Intermodal services that use truck chassis and trailers have codes ending with “Z”. 

How to obtain a SCAC code? 

SCAC is needed by all transportation and logistics companies involved in trade with the US government. To obtain a standard carrier alpha code, shipping carriers must report to the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). This can be done digitally by logging in to the NMFTA website, which allows you to apply and manage SCAC in real time. Transport companies can also reapply for SCAC.  

This is how you can obtain a standard carrier alpha code in shipping and use it for seamless trade inside or across the US border. 

LOTUS Containers markets shipping container solutions worldwide. We offer a range of containers, from standard 20ft containers to high-cube 53ft intermodal containers. Contact us to buy or lease shipping containers.

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