transit time

There are a lot of figures connected with the transit process.

In this case, one of the most important indicators is transit time.

Let’s find out what this figure is needed for and how we can use it for profitable international trade.

What is the total transit time?

If the delivery is processed by several carriers, the total transit time will be the time needed for the transportation of goods between carriers and to the final destination.

How do time zones affect transit time?

Unfortunately, there is no generally accepted practice for correlating the transit time with time zones.

The transit time is measured as a separate value, which can make the understanding of delivery deadlines quite confusing.

Please, discuss with your supplier/forwarder about the time zone being used in your relations.

What is the difference between lead time and transit time?

The lead time in a supply chain management context is the time from the moment the customer places an order (the moment the supplier learns of the requirement) to the actual delivery.

There is also a connected concept of cycle time: it begins when the actual work on the unit starts and ends when it is ready for shipment.

What is the common transit convention?

Community transit is a European Union (EU) customs procedure.

It allows foreign products to move from one point of the EU to another.

Also, this procedure is used for domestic transit inside the EU countries.

The Common Transit Convention is the document which implies such procedures.

If you are a resident of the European Union, please, keep in mind that this process can affect the delivery time.

What is a transit time in shipping?

There are two main definitions of transit time (TT).

First of them states that it is the time needed for the cargo to get from the supplier to the buyer.

However, we prefer to stick with another concept: the transit time is the approximate time needed for goods to travel from one point to another.

If we are talking about sea freight, then the transit time will count when the goods are on the way from the port

A to port B.

In the case of air freight, we are talking about the airports instead of seaports.

The transit time may change due to the unforeseen circumstances which will be discussed later in this FAQ.

Transit process

Transit time and delivery time: how are these two differ?

The delivery time is a wider concept than transit time.

The delivery time covers the whole process of shipping from the supplier to the buyer, including customs clearance, package handling, etc.

The transit time, on the other hand, refers to the transportation process by sea/air/rail freight.

Train in winter

Which factors can affect transit time?

There are several key factors which can affect the transit time.

Transportation mode.

The most obvious on this list, the transportation mode is the main difference between each shipment.

Airfreight, basically, is the fastest way of goods delivery, but it is not the mode which you can freely use for bulk cargo.

Sea vessel, on the other hand, is the slowest one, but the cheapest, and also can cope with massive orders.

Partner carriers.

In international trade, one shipment is usually processed by several carriers.

The communication between them can easily affect the transit time.


Weather is a huge factor for all kinds of transportation modes.

According to statistics, it is an issue in the 90% of delivery delay cases.

The most affected mode is road transport, especially in the snow season.

Road construction and traffic (for road freight only).

Like the weather, road and traffic issues can’t be precisely predicted or calculated.

Forwarding agents and drivers do their best to stay tuned with the situation on routes, but it is never enough to fully guarantee the lack of delays.

Among other factors affecting the transit time, sea and airport congestions can be named.

What is a mileage guideline in the case of transit time?

Some shipping companies create a mileage guideline, which shows the approximate transit time for a different distance.

The mileage guideline is mostly used in the case of road or rail freight.

You can see the example of it in the next question of our FAQ, “What is the approximate transit time for road/rail freight?”. 

Who is responsible for a transit time delay?

As we’ve already figured out, there are a huge amount of factors affecting the transit time. 

You may assume, that such things as delays can happen a lot.

So there is a huge need in assigning the liability for it.

In general, the shipping line is the party responsible for the transit time delay.

However, the freight forwarding agent also can be obliged to meet the transit time deadline if it is stated in the trading agreement with the buyer.

Air freight

How the transit time and freight costs are connected?

It is obvious that the fastest transportation option will be the most expensive.

If you are choosing the air freight, you’ll get the goods in one week on average.

However, in this case, the costs double compare with the sea, road or rail freight. 

What is the meaning of “in transit” status?

The vast majority of shipping companies uses tracking programs to show their clients the movement of their packages. 

Your order can have a lot of statuses, including “in transit” status.

It means that your freight is on its way to be delivered and the transit time is already counting.

After the transit is over, you may see the status “delivered”, “processing customs clearance”, or something similar.

Can the customs clearance affect transit time?

If you head back to the first question of our FAQ, you can see that there are two widespread definitions of transit time.

So if you consider the transit time as a process of goods transfer from the supplier to the buyer, then the customs clearance will be among the factors affecting such time.

However, the transportation process from one port to another obviously can’t be interrupted by customs.

Container truck

What is the approximate transit time for road/rail freight?

The minimal speed of freight train is form 10 to 30 miles per hour.

Under usual circumstances, the maximum authorized speed on the vast majority of rail routes is about 60 miles per hour.

Speaking of the road freight, the difference lies in the loading options.

Full truckload transit times are the next on average:

  • 0 to 399 miles: same or next day delivery;
  • 400 to 600 miles: next day delivery;
  • 601 to 1200 miles: delivery within 2 days;
  • 1201 to 1800 miles: 3-day service; 
  • 1801 to 2400 miles: delivery in 4 days;
  • 2401 to 3000 miles: 5-day delivery;
  • 3001 to 3300 miles: 5-6 day service.

Less than truckload mileage guideline is the next:

  • 50 to 400 miles: 1 to 2 days;
  • 401 to 600 miles: delivery within 2 days;
  • 601 to 900 miles: 2 to 3 days;
  • 901 to 1200 miles: 3-days delivery;
  • 1201 to 1500 miles: 3 to 4 days
  • 1501 to 1800 miles: 4 days for transit;
  • 1801 to 2100 miles: 4 to 5 days needed;
  • 2101 to 2400 miles: 5-days transit;
  • 2401 to 2700 miles: 5 to 6 days;
  • 2701 to 3000 miles: delivery within 6 days;
  • 3001 to 3300 miles: 6 to 7 days needed.

Please, keep in mind that the above-mentioned figures are approximate and the real mileage guideline differs for each shipping company.

If you wish to know more about the road freight, please check this useful Bansar guide.

Freight train

How can I calculate a transit time of the freight?

Freight forwarding companies and shipping agents use different software to calculate the transit time of each freight.

The vast majority of logistic apps are distributed for money, however, you can find a lot of free web calculators on the Internet.

Also, you can try to count the transit time manually, figuring out the average speed of transport and the distance of delivery.

Can transit time be guaranteed in shipping?

The transit time is the approximate value which can’t be 100% guaranteed in shipping.

What is the average transit time for air freight?

The air freight is considered as the fastest mode of transportation.

The average delivery time for air cargo shipments is between six to seven days: the transit process covers only 1-2 days from it, while the other time is needed for export/import haulage and customs clearance.

Freight aircraft

What is the average transit time for sea freight?

On average, sea freight is the slowest type of transport.

Depending on ports and shipping line capacities, it may take from 13 to 40 days.

As an example, let’s see the approximate transit time of shipping from Guangzhou, China to the USA:

  • New York: 27-33 days;
  • Miami: 34-40 days;
  • Los Angeles: 13-18 days;
  • Seattle: 16-21 days.

The sea freight from China to the UK takes nearly the same time:

  • from Guangzhou/Shenzhen: 23-25 days;
  • from Central China (Shanghai/Ningbo): 28-30 days;
  • Northern China (Qingdao/Tianjin/Xingang): 32-35 days.

Note: the whole delivery time will be larger because of customs clearance and haulage procedures.

How can the transit time be improved?

In recent years, the transit time has been slightly improved due to the ongoing development of transportation technologies.

Modern shipping companies can improve the transit time just by using the fastest machines trucks, trains, and aircraft.

Also, the transit time can be improved by choosing the fastest and safest routes possible.