DHL Shipment On Hold | 10 Common Causes Inside + What They Mean

Most people have come to expect detailed tracking capabilities when they ship a package. Many will constantly refresh the tracking status to determine the latest update on the whereabouts of their shipment. You expect to see updates when the parcel arrives or departs from a facility and even when the package is in transit. However, what does it mean when you see the “DHL shipment on hold” message? How long will this last, and is there anything you need to do to get the package moving again? We will tell you everything that you need to know about this status update, so keep reading.


What “DHL Shipment On Hold” Means

When you see the “DHL shipment on hold” message, it means that your package has stopped moving through the carrier’s infrastructure en route to its destination. In short, it has stopped and is currently just sitting for some reason. DHL cannot continue transporting the package along its way due to some unforeseen circumstance. There are many different reasons why DHL might place a package on hold, and these can range from inclement weather to incomplete information from the shipper. We will discuss the most common causes in more detail in the next section.

Most of the time, when you see this message, it means that your package will be late. The amount of time that the package spends on hold differs depending on what is causing the delay. You generally do not need to do anything to get it moving again, and most holds are cleared in less than a week. Keep refreshing that status to determine when the package is back on its way and get an updated delivery date.


10 Common Reasons For Shipment On Hold Status

So, what causes a shipment to be placed on hold? It could be due to a number of different reasons. Most of the time, it will be because of one of the ten reasons listed below. Let’s dive in and see what causes these shipment delays.


— Inclement Weather

Bad weather conditions are a common cause of shipping delays. This often occurs on international cargo shipments. Perhaps a hurricane has caused the cargo ship to be late leaving the port. It could also be more local to your delivery area. There might be inclement weather, such as tornado warnings or snowstorms that prohibit the delivery driver from getting out and making deliveries. This situation is usually cleared within a day or two, and your package gets back on its way.


— Natural Disaster

Natural disasters are another common reason for shipping delays. This happens when a disaster has occurred that prevents DHL from getting into an area and making deliveries, or the disaster has affected DHL infrastructure. Perhaps flooding in the area has stopped all traffic for several days. Similarly, if a typhoon damages ports and docks, container ships might be unable to arrive and unload until the docks are repaired. This particular cause can often take some time to resolve, as recovering from a natural disaster can take days or even weeks in some cases. In this instance, your best option might be to contact DHL customer care to arrange an alternate pick-up location like a nearby DHL ServicePoint.


— COVID-19

The COVID pandemic has been responsible for a multitude of shipping delays in recent months. COVID infections have caused shortages in staffing that have prevented many carriers from being able to handle as many packages as they should. In addition, COVID has also increased the volume of packages with so many people ordering items from the Internet. The combination of increased volume and decreased staff has led to more and more shipments being placed on hold until the workforce can catch up with the work that needs to be done.


— Port Congestion

This is somewhat a result of the reason mentioned above. Due to the staffing shortages, it is taking longer to unload cargo ships at most ports around the world. Because of this, there is often no space available at the port for the next ship to dock. Ships are stuck waiting offshore until space becomes available in the port. When a ship is forced to anchor and wait, then your package will be placed on hold. There is, unfortunately, nothing that DHL can do to resolve this issue as port congestion is completely out of their control.


— Shortage Of Shipping Space

Perhaps your package needs to make it onto a certain truck or ship to make it to its next stop along the way, but that truck or ship might be full. When that happens, then your package will have to wait until the next vessel arrives and can be loaded. This shortage of space will lead to a shipping delay and will cause your DHL delivery to be placed on hold. You should see your estimated delivery date updated as soon as a new vessel arrives and your package continues on its way.


— Change In Shipping Route

Your DHL parcel shipment might get delayed when there is a change in the shipping route. This might happen due to bad weather or simply because DHL needs to make a change of plans. Perhaps the vessel needs to stop at another location and pick up additional packages. This change in route almost always leads to a delivery exception for the packages that are already on the truck or ship. Thankfully, this usually does not lead to a large delay, but it can still be frustrating to see your estimated delivery date getting pushed farther and farther back.


— Incomplete Shipping Information

Unfortunately, this is often a problem for all carriers and not just DHL. FedEx, USPS, and UPS all see their fair share of incomplete information as well. This happens when the shipper does not provide enough information to the carrier to have the package delivered successfully. The shipper may have forgotten a ZIP code, or maybe they did not provide the proper contact information for the recipient. Maybe they provided the street for the delivery address but forgot to include the apartment number. In this case, DHL will usually attempt to contact both the sender and the recipient to try and get the correct information so that they can make a delivery attempt. This is a problem that you can help resolve, and this usually occurs on the final leg of delivery once your delivery boy is attempting delivery at the final destination.


— Incomplete Customs Documentation

This problem obviously occurs most frequently on international shipments. Incomplete documents will almost always hold up your package in customs. U.S. Customs requires many documents for goods coming into the country. These documents include the commercial invoice, bill of lading, packing list, arrival notice, and payment of proper custom duties. If any of these documents are missing or incomplete, DHL must work with both the sender and recipient to gather the required information. Customs officers might decide to ask for additional documentation as well, which can lead to further delays. Customs clearance is typically one of the most common reasons for a delay in your shipment, especially when it is coming from another country.


— Shortage Of Vessels Or Vehicles

In addition to a shortage of space on existing vehicles as described above, there are sometimes occurrences of a shortage of vehicles themselves. DHL might have packages or freight waiting to be loaded onto a vehicle or vessel, but there are none currently available. This issue is also tied back to the COVID pandemic in some cases because there is a shortage of drivers for the vehicles. Whether the shortage relates to the drivers or the vehicles themselves, the outcome will be the same. Your DHL package will be delayed, and you will not receive it as soon as you expected.


— Social Unrest

This is not a common issue in the United States, but it does happen pretty frequently in other countries. Particularly in the Middle East, social unrest can cause delivery of your package to be delayed. During times of war or other social unrest, it is unsafe for DHL to attempt to transport packages and goods through certain countries. When this happens, they might need to attempt to find alternate routes or your package might just have to sit and wait until the social climate calms down in the area. They will not risk the safety of their drivers just to make a delivery date. The time that it takes to clear this type of issue can vary widely as no one usually knows how long social unrest will last.


How Long Will “DHL Shipment On Hold Status” Last?

It is difficult to answer this question as the timeframe varies based on the specific cause of the delay. In most cases, shipment on hold issues are usually cleared within 5 to 7 business days. In some cases, DHL might remove this shipment status in a day. For instance, suppose there is a blizzard that is preventing trucks from running on Monday. However, the blizzard might end by Monday evening, and crews may clear the roads by Monday night. By Tuesday, things could be up and running like normal again. Remember that DHL does not deliver on Saturday in the U.S., even under normal conditions.

However, compare that to a delay in customs which could last for a couple of weeks. Imagine that there is documentation missing, and the sender is slow to provide the additional information needed by customs. You might find this issue dragging on for many working days. Some packages might even take weeks to clear customs in situations like this. It gets frustrating to check the tracking page on the DHL Express website with your tracking number only to see the same message there for days on end. Thankfully, the majority of delays last for less than a week.


Resolving A Shipment On Hold Status

Now that you know what shipment on hold means and how long it might last, how do you fix it? In most cases, there is no need for you to contact the shipping company. Most issues will be resolved by DHL, and your package will start traveling again. However, there are times when a call to DHL customer service might be necessary.

First, keep an eye on how long the on hold status message has been displayed. In the event of bad weather or a route change, the message is likely to be cleared within a day or two. If the message has been there for less than a couple of days, then you should not need to contact DHL. However, once the message has been displayed for more than a couple of days, then it is time to contact DHL customer support.

Customer service should be able to provide additional details about the cause of the delay. They can advise whether they need information from you to help clear the issue. Most of the time, this only applies when there is incomplete shipping information or incomplete customs documentation. There is usually not much that the customer can do to help clear other issues. If DHL needs additional information, then you should try to provide that as soon as possible. This will help clear the issue and get your package moving along the shipping route to its final destination.


The Bottom Line

The DHL shipment on hold status can be frustrating because it almost always means a delay in the delivery of your package. However, the cause and length of the delay can vary. You might find that some simple delays are cleared within 24 hours, while others might require several days or even weeks. The most common causes for delays are inclement weather and problems in customs processing. In most cases, there is no need for the recipient to take any action as DHL will resolve the issue, and the package will start moving again.


Frequently Asked Questions


Why is my DHL shipment not moving?

This could be due to many different reasons. It might not be moving because it is held up in customs. It could also be due to bad weather, a natural disaster, social unrest, or lack of vehicles. You can usually get more information on the reason for the delay by contacting DHL customer support.


How can I get my shipment status to change from on hold?

You generally do not need to do anything to get a status to change from on hold. In most cases, DHL is already working to clear the issue. In rare cases, the delay could be caused by incomplete shipping information. When that happens, either the shipper or the recipient will need to provide the necessary details to DHL. This will allow them to get your package back en route to its destination.


What do I need to do to release my shipment?

Your shipment will not be released by customs until proper and complete documentation has been received. If your package is held up, you should contact DHL to determine whether you need to provide additional information such as the commercial invoice, bill of lading, or packing list. Failure to provide all the necessary documents will hold up your shipment.


Is there anything I need to do when I see a DHL On Hold status?

Generally, no, you do not need to do anything. Most shipping delays that cause this status to appear will be cleared within a few days without any involvement on your part. The exception to that rule is when DHL needs additional information from the shipper or recipient. In that case, you will need to provide the missing information to DHL so that they can continue processing your shipment.

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