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DOT issues new standards for lithium battery transportation

Washington – The Department of Transportation recently issued a final rule intended to strengthen safety conditions for the shipment of lithium cells and batteries.

These changes will help ensure lithium cells and batteries are able to withstand normal transportation conditions and are packaged to reduce the possibility of damage that could lead to an unsafe situation, DOT stated in a July 31 press release.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which developed the rule with the Federal Aviation Administration, anticipates safety benefits resulting from a combination of reliable packaging, hazard communication, pilot notification and employee training, as well as cargo inspection and acceptance checks prior to loading.

The final rule will:

  • Adopt separate shipping descriptions for lithium metal (non-rechargeable) batteries and lithium ion (rechargeable) batteries.
  • Revise requirements for the transport of lithium batteries for disposal or recycling.
  • Adopt new provisions for the transport of damaged, defective and recalled lithium batteries.

In March 2013, the Air Line Pilots Association, International, called on PHMSA to mandate stricter requirements for domestically transporting lithium batteries and cells by air. Lithium batteries and cells can overheat and ignite if mishandled, and these fires are difficult to extinguish, ALPA stated.