DOT Issues Additional Proposed Rule on Transportation of Lithium Batteries

January 12, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed to strengthen safeguards for air shipments of lithium batteries and cells, including when they are packed with or contained in equipment. The proposed changes will ensure that lithium batteries are designed to withstand normal transportation conditions and that they are packaged to reduce the possibility of damage that could lead to an unsafe incident.

"Safety is our highest priority, said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. "This rulemaking is important for the protection of the traveling public and many of those who work in the aviation industry. We have to make sure lithium batteries or any other hazardous materials taken on planes are carried in the safest way possible. This rule will help us achieve a safer aviation environment without imposing a ban on the transport of lithium batteries by air."

Since 1991, more than 40 air transport-related incidents involving lithium batteries and devices powered by lithium batteries have been identified.

The Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), developed this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on display today in the Federal Register to comprehensively address the safe transportation of lithium cells and batteries when being shipped on aircraft.

In part, DOT proposes to:

– Eliminate regulatory exceptions for small lithium cells and batteries when included in an air shipment; and require their transportation as Class 9 materials, meaning they could pose a hazard when transported;

– Subject packages of small lithium batteries to well-recognized marking and labeling requirements for hazardous materials;

– Require transport documentation to accompany a shipment of small lithium batteries, including notifying the pilot in command of the presence and location of lithium batteries being shipped on the aircraft;

– Require manufacturers to retain results of satisfactory completion of United Nations design-type tests for each lithium cell and battery type;

– Limit stowage of lithium cell and battery shipments aboard aircraft to cargo locations accessible to the crew or locations equipped with an FAA-approved fire suppression system, unless transported in a container approved by the FAA Administrator; and

– Apply appropriate safety measures for the transport of lithium cells or batteries identified as being defective for safety reasons, or those that have been damaged or are otherwise being returned to the manufacturer, and limit the transportation of defective or damaged cells or batteries to highway and rail.