Why Is My DHL Shipment on Hold? (All You Need to Know)

Online shopping is great. After all, who doesn’t like ordering something with a few clicks, then having it delivered straight to their door? While the mechanics may look simple, a lot more goes into getting your order (notably the shipping process).

This is perhaps most noticeable when shipping problems arise. One such problem you may encounter is receiving the “DHL shipment on hold” message. Keep reading this article to understand what it means and what you can do about it!

Why Is My DHL Shipment on Hold?

Shipment on hold is a tracking update used by DHL to indicate that a package is no longer moving due to an unforeseen delay. Shipments get delayed due to port congestion, inclement weather, lack of delivery vehicles, holidays, and missing paperwork. Most shipments start moving again within a day or two in 2024.

If you’re still confused about why your DHL shipment is on hold, then this article will provide you with all the information you need, so keep reading!

What Does “DHL Shipment on Hold” Mean?

“Shipment on hold” is a tracking update DHL uses to tell customers that their package is no longer moving due to an unforeseen delay.

Packages may stop moving for a number of reasons, such as bad weather, lack of transportation, or border closures.

(I’ll provide more details about these reasons in a later section.)

This message does not mean DHL lost the package or that the seller canceled the order.

Rather, it indicates that something occurred during transit that prevented DHL from moving your package towards its destination.

It’s important to note that seeing this message usually indicates that your package is going to arrive later than the estimated time.

Other Reasons It May Occur 

Why Is My DHL Shipment on Hold?

DHL’s Shipment on Hold message is frustrating. Not only because it means your package is going to arrive later than expected, but also because it’s vague.

In other words, you know there’s a problem with the shipment but you have no explanation as to why.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide you with the exact reason behind your delayed shipment, but I can offer some possible explanations.

Once you know the types of events that can slow down DHL shipments, you can do some research and try to find out the specific cause behind your package’s delay.

DHL package may be on hold for any of the following reasons:

Port congestion

One of the most common reasons DHL packages get held up is because of port congestion.

This happens when you order something from another country and DHL has to bring the item through customs.

At customs, employees go through packages and shipping paperwork to ensure that nothing illegal or dangerous is coming into the country.

Most of the time, this process is smooth and goes off without a hitch. Other times, customs gets backed up due to high package volumes. That’s especially true during the holiday season.

In most cases, port congestion doesn’t cause much of a delay, as most packages will get cleared after a day or two. After that, they resume their progress as normal.

Bad weather or natural disasters

While shipping companies are skilled at getting packages to their destination in a timely manner, there are some things that can’t be controlled, and weather is one of them.

Events like tornados, hurricanes, snow storms, and earthquakes can prevent drivers from transporting and delivering packages.

In these cases, drivers have to wait until the weather improves or until they find an alternate route. Naturally, both of these scenarios mean your package will get held up by several days.

Social unrest

DHL primarily delivers in Europe, a continent famous for its protests and marches. In some cases, social unrest may even cause borders to close until the unrest dies down.

Such events slow down packages because DHL drivers need to find alternate routes around protests.

In more severe cases where borders are closed, your package may get stuck in a country until the event passes.

Route changes

Route changes occur for a number of reasons. For example, a driver may fall ill while on the road or a delivery van might break down.

In both of these cases, a new driver or van is necessary to complete the delivery.

It’s not always easy to find an available employee or vehicle, so it’s quite possible that your package gets delayed by a day or two.

Missing or incomplete paperwork

Shipping of any kind requires paperwork and documentation. If something happens to a customs form or a shipping label, your package’s progress could be delayed.

This could happen because customs can’t process a shipment without knowing the contents of a package.

Or, it could happen because a driver can’t read a shipping label and doesn’t know where to deliver a package.

As well, it’s possible that the seller forgot to include essential information when preparing the shipment.

If any of these things happen, DHL may need to hold onto the shipment until they receive the necessary information.

Usually, DHL will contact the shipper to get the missing documentation.

Depending on how quickly this happens and how responsive the shipper is, your package could be moving again within a couple of days.

Lack of transport

DHL is smaller than carriers like FedEx and UPS. Because of this, they have a limited number of vans, planes, and ships.

When things are busy, they may have to wait longer than normal until one of these vehicles becomes available.

In most cases, this will only slow down your shipment by a day or so.

How Long Will My DHL Shipment Be on Hold?

Because there are so many explanations for why DHL shipments end up on hold, it’s difficult to say how long your package will be stuck.

That said, you might be able to get a ballpark estimate by researching any holidays, border issues, or weather events.

Something like minor road construction or a holiday may delay your package for a day or two, while a complicated border issue or social unrest could spell an even longer delay.

Whatever the situation, your best bet is to call DHL. They won’t be able to give you an exact answer, but they may have more information than you about the situation. 

To learn more, you can also read our posts on DHL, DHL eCommerce, and why does DHL take so long.


Seeing Shipment on Hold on your DHL tracking information may be concerning or annoying, but hopefully this article has shown you that delayed packages are a relatively normal occurrence.

Indeed, anything from bad weather to social unrest can slow down your package for a day or two. But luckily, these delays are usually temporary and work themselves out on their own.

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Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of QuerySprout.com.

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