Juliana Mello

Juliana Mello

The Brazil Business


Logistics and Distances in Brazil

Juliana Mello

Juliana Mello

The Brazil Business


The problems in the Brazilian logistic system represent a big obstacle to the country's economic growth. In this article we will explain those issues, and give an overview of the Brazilian transport network.

Logistics in Brazil: an obstacle to economic growth

Brazil is the fifth country in territorial extension and has an enormous capacity of benefiting from its natural resources. However, when it comes to competing globally with other countries, expectations run against a logistic structure full of serious operational problems.

In the 2012 World Bank survey, that analyzes logistic systems worldwide, Brazil ranked the 45th position. The country was specifically bad in the aspect “customs”, one of the research’s indicators.

The main problem regarding logistics in Brazil is infrastructure. The poor maintenance of roads and lack of railways represent the major issues. Due to the internal market growth, there were a lot of investments since 2008, but they are still insufficient to the country’s demand.

The major issue

The Brazilian transportation network lacks a greater variety of options to the companies. The country counts with 214.000 km of roads (1.600 km of them, unpaved) and only 30.000 km of railways and 14.000 km of waterways.

Considering these numbers, it’s understandable that around 60% of the cargo in Brazil relies on roads, revealing one of the greatest weaknesses of the system. Loads here are transported by roads even along extreme distances involving thousands of kilometers. The cost of road transport is very high in Brazil, especially over long distances, for which we should use other means of transportation.

The paved roads are poorly maintained, what increases even more the costs of shipping and drop the dynamism of deliveries, increasing the products’ final cost and decreasing competitiveness. Traffic accidents and cargo theft are also major problems that often happen in the Brazilian roads. In 2009, there were more than 1 billion dollars in losses from cargo theft in the country.

Even though infrastructure is a major issue, the lack of workforce is another factor that restrains the improvement of the Brazilian logistic system. There are workers missing from the top management positions to truck drivers.

But the other means of transport are not better than the roads. In the Brazilian largest Port, the Port of Santos, the burden is still on average 17 days, while the world average is 5 days.

The Brazilian transport network


There are 30.000 kilometers of railways in Brazil, operating in 22 states. The main railways are:

  • Estrada de Ferro Carajás: connects the states of Pará and Maranhão
  • Estrada de Ferro Vitória e Minas: serving the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo
  • Ferrovia Norte- Sul: connects the states of Pará, Maranhão, Tocantins, Goiás, Minas Gerais,São Paulo and Mato Grosso do Sul
  • Ferrovia Centro-Atlântica: connects the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro,Goiás, Bahia, Espírito Santo,Distrito Federal, Sergipe and Minas Gerais
  • Ferrovia Sul-Atlântico: connects the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina e Rio Grande do Sul


The Brazilian highways that are in good conditions, generally, were granted to the private sector, but although presenting extreme quality, are subject to tolls. The Anhanguera (BR-040/SP-330), Bandeirantes (SP-348), Immigrantes (SP-160), Castelo Branco (SP-280), Washington Luís (SP-310), Régis Bittencourt (BR-116 / SP-230), Dutra (BR-116/SP-060) and Fernão Dias (BR-381) are examples of this system.

Each Brazilian road has a specific number. They are classified as:

  • Radial Highways (000-099): when the highway runs radially from Brasília.
  • Longitudinal Highway (100-199): when the highway was built in the north-south axis
  • Transversal Highway (200-299): when the highway was built in the east-west axis
  • Diagonal Highway (300-399): when the road was built diagonally.
  • Connection Highways (400-499): when the highway connects two major highways


The waterway transportation in Brazil is divided into fluvial and maritime modes. Shipping is the most important, accounting for almost 75% of Brazil's international trade. River transport is the most economical and clean, however it is the least used in Brazil, despite of the great amount of navigable waters.

There are however areas that rely almost exclusively on waterways, such as the Amazon, where distances are great and there are almost no roads or railroads. The main waterways in Brazil are as follows:

  • Hidrovia do Madeira
  • Hidrovia Paraguai-Paraná
  • Hidrovia Paraná-Tietê
  • Hidrovia Tocantins-Araguaia
  • Hidrovia do São Francisco
  • Hidrovia do Solimões-Amazonas

From São Paulo to the rest of Brazil: distances

Considering that the São Paulo region is one of the main industrial complexes in Brazil, we listed the distances from this city to the main market destinations in the country. Many of the destinations below are cities that contain ports and railways, because a great amount loads are transported by roads from São Paulo and take a different transport way in other cities.

Beside the distances, there’s the average time a truck would take to travel the way with 90km per hour speed. We are not considering variants such as traffic, problems in the highways, load and unload, stops etc.

São Paulo (SP) – Paranaguá (SP): 442 km (274.64 miles) – 4h54m

São Paulo (SP) – Santos (SP): 72 km (44 miles) - 48m

São Paulo (SP) – Rio de Janeiro (RJ): 429 km (266 miles) – 4h46m

São Paulo (SP) – Natal (RN) – 2.947 km (1831 miles) – 32h44m

São Paulo (SP) – Salvador (BA): 1.962 km (1219 miles) – 21h48m

São Paulo (SP) – Itajai (SC): 617 km (383.3 miles) – 6h51m

São Paulo (SP) – Porto Alegre (RS): 1.109 km (689 miles) – 12h19m

São Paulo (SP) – Recife (PE): 2.660 km (1652 miles) – 29h33m

São Paulo (SP) – Rio Branco (AC): 3.604 km (2239 miles) – 40h02m

São Paulo (SP) – Vitória (ES): 882 km (548 miles) – 9h48m

São Paulo (SP) – Belo Horizonte (MG): 586 km (364 miles) – 6h30m

São Paulo (SP) – Boa Vista (RR): 4.756 km (2955 miles - 52h56m)

São Paulo (SP) – Florianópolis (SC): 705 km (469 miles) - 7h50m

São Paulo (SP) – Ponta Porã (MS): 1.117 km (694 miles) - 12h24m

In this link, you can download a table containing the distances between the main Brazilian cities. You can also check which stretches are unpaved.