DOT Issues New Rule for Transporting Lithium Batteries

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration developed the rule, working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a new rule July 31 aimed at increasing the safety of shipped lithium cells and batteries. Some of the changes focus specifically on shipments by air; the rule seeks to ensure that lithium cells and batteries can withstand normal transportation conditions and are packaged to reduce the possibility of damage that could lead to an unsafe situation.

"Safety is our number one priority, and this rule provides an additional layer of protection to the shipment of lithium batteries, which we all depend on daily to power our phones and our laptops," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "Today's standards are part of our ongoing work to improve safety for all travelers, including those who travel with or ship lithium batteries."

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration developed the rule, working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration. According to DOT, voluntary compliance is encouraged when the final rule is published, but compliance is mandatory beginning six months after publication.

The final rule will:

  • Enhance packaging and hazard communication requirements for lithium batteries transported by air
  • Replace equivalent lithium content with watt-hours for lithium ion cells and batteries
  • Adopt separate shipping descriptions for lithium metal batteries and lithium ion batteries
  • Revise provisions for the transport of small and medium lithium cells and batteries, including cells and batteries packed with, or contained in, equipment
  • Revise the requirements for the transport of lithium batteries for disposal or recycling
  • Harmonize the provisions for the transport of low production and prototype lithium cells and batteries with the ICAO Technical Instructions and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code
  • Adopt new provisions for the transport of damaged, defective, and recalled lithium batteries

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