Transit Transport Operation

During international transport, a means of transport may pass through several countries before arriving in the country of destination of the goods. This is called international transit. This is especially true for road transport. For transporters it is important to be able to continue through the transit countries with a minimum of formalities (documents, stops, waiting times, inspections, guarantee payments), whilst for the authorities in the transit countries it is important to ascertain the validity of the transit transport whilst avoiding unnecessary risks and actions.

Transit transport

Transit transport can be complex due to non-harmonised national and international regulations, which can add severe and costly conditions, such as

  • obligatory involvement of operators in the transit country (national carriers, national customs brokers, for example),
  • obligatory use of facilities, such as bonded warehouses, for goods that are temporarily stored before further transportation,
  • obligatory change of transport modes (e.g. Alpine countries where trucks have to be put on trains to go through the mountains),
  • non-allowance of return cargo in the transit country,
  • additional documentation requirements in the transit countries, and
  • inefficient border crossings leading to waiting times and additional actions


Transit transport is mainly regulated by cross-border agreements; bilateral or multilateral agreements, which cover market access and treatment at and behind the border. They seek to facilitate transit transport through the use of a common transit document, mutually recognized controls and seals, and a cross-border guarantee scheme.
The main internationally operational system for transport transit is the TIR Convention drawn up by the UNECE Inland Transport Committee which, by introducing exemption from duty on imported vehicles, has established that goods carried under seal and in approved vehicles should not be subject to physical inspections en route. Payments of related duties and taxes are suspended until the arrival of the goods at their destination. Today, the TIR Convention has 68 Contracting Parties worldwide.
The Convention on International Transport of Goods Under Cover of TIR Carnets (TIR) was made to simplify and harmonise the administrative formalities of international road transport.The TIR Convention establishes an international customs transit system with maximum facility to move goods

  • in sealed vehicles or containers;
  • from a Customs office of departure in one country to a Customs office of destination in another country;
  • without requiring extensive and time-consuming border checks at intermediate borders;
  • at a cost-effective price;
  • while, at the same time, providing Customs authorities with the required security and guarantees.

The TIR system not only covers customs transit by road but a combination is possible with other modes of transport (for example, rail, inland waterways and even maritime transport), as long as at least one part of the total transport is made by road.
In 2003 the so-called “eTIR Project” was launched, which provides an exchange platform for all actors (Customs authorities, holders and guarantee chains) involved in the TIR system, known as the “eTIR international system”. The eTIR international system aims to ensure the secure exchange of data between national Customs systems relating to the international transit of goods, vehicles or containers according to the provisions of the TIR Convention and to allow Customs to manage the data on guarantees, issued by guarantee chains to holders authorized to use the TIR system.