When travelling by road in Europe and other parts of the world you have probably seen a blue plate on the back of a truck, with TIR written on in white letters. Here's why...
The Transport International Routier or TIR system was proposed by the UNECE in 1975 and adopted in 1978 as a secure and fast channel for international shipping. TIR registered vehicles have a secure load bay which can only be accessed by customs officials - thereby ensuring checks are not required at each international border they cross.
As long as the tamper-proof seal and the driver's carnet are in order, the customs officials can allow the truck straight through any checkpoints they may have set up.
The 5 pillars
The five principles on which the system is built are:
1. Secure Vehicles or Containers - All TIR goods should travel in vehicles or containers which have been certified secure by the cusoms.
2. International Guarantee - All participating countries should guarantee any TIR goods travelling through their country for the risk of duties and taxes.
3. TIR Carnet - The goods must be accompanied by an internationally recognised carnet, which will be accepted as a customs control document in departure, destination and all transit countries.
4. Mutual Recognition of Customs Controls - Controls applicable in the country of departure must be acceptable to all the countries of transit and destination.
5. Controlled Access - Access to the TIR procedure should be only for national TIR associations and competent national authorities.
While chiefly self-regulating, the bodies to which all queries must be made are the TIR Administrative Committee, or the UNECE Working Party on Customs Questions Affecting Transport.
A working example
A shipper wishes to take goods from country A to country D, passing through B and C. He applies for a carnet and presents it to the customs of country A. The customs check the contents of the vehicle, seal the container and log the information in the carnet - keeping a duplicate sheet.
On leaving country A, the customs now have only to check the seals, and log departure from the country. As country B is entered, the seals are again checked, and arrival in the country logged. This logging occurs to demonstrate exactly when the goods are covered by each country's guarantee.
On arrival at the destination, the customs check the seals, and then remove them. The carnet is finalised and eventually returned to the governing body who issued it.