50 Years; a brief history of DHL logistics and how we pioneered international express delivery

50 years of excellence. Simply delivered.

Posted on 24/09/2019 by DHL Express 0 comments

From humble beginnings in 1969 to the most global logistics network today, our trade lanes now reach more than 220 countries and territories around the globe. We’re taking a look back to understand how far the logistics industry has come and also discuss what future-facing solutions might be on the horizon.


Innovation is an essential part of DHL’s DNA. From 1969 with the idea of transporting shipping documents from San Francisco to Honolulu by plane, allowing customs clearance of the corresponding ship cargo to begin before the ships actually arrived, the invention of DHL’s international express service was the starting point for a long legacy of important logistics milestones.


Adaptation is at our core. With the world forever changing, and at speed, DHL is constantly reshaping to fit, adapt and deliver. From 1980 to 1989 changes included integrating the world’s latest comms technology, the fax machine, and progressing from an express courier service to package delivery and building an aviation fleet to reach networks in the US and Europe.

Breaking through barriers

Breaking down barriers from 1990 to 1999, DHL was one of the first logistics companies with the mindset ‘thinking global but acting local’. At the time this meant applying local solutions to bridge global distances, including setting up express logistics centres to manage next-morning deliveries worldwide and introducing Import Express to enable shipments from anywhere to anywhere. Interestingly we now have the same approach to e-commerce, supporting our customers to localise their operations online to better connect with buyers.

Digital immersion

In a world where the rapid growth of e-commerce intersected with global trade, DHL has revolutionised how we communicate with customers and how we conduct business; moving as many processes online as possible and encouraging paperless trade.


As we look to the future, sustainability initiatives are key to all DHL operations. Sustainability measures have been integrated into the heart of DHL’s corporate strategy,

encouraging a wealth of innovative ideas like the StreetScooter: a DHL-designed electric vehicle, electric cargo bikes and the introduction of a green fleet with new electric vans. Examples like this support DHL’s company-wide initiative to improve carbon efficiency.

We look forward to the next 50 years helping great British businesses like you seize the opportunities international trade brings. Click here for guidance on growing your e-commerce internationally and for help getting started, contact us here.



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