New DOT Lithium Battery Rules Take Effect Today

Posted on 8/7/2015 by Roger Marks

“…a fire involving one or more packages of lithium ion batteries packed and transported in accordance with the Dangerous Goods Technical Instructions could create hazards that the aircraft fire protection features are not able to adequately protect against.”
Boeing guidance to air carriers, July 2015

Today, August 7, shippers must be in compliance with US DOT’s new hazmat shipping standards for lithium batteries.

Passed one year ago, the new shipping standards harmonize US DOT’s rules with international standards already in effect. The new rules become mandatory as the unique hazards posed by lithium batteries in transport, especially by air, have garnered a great deal of industry, government, and media concern.

For air shipments, new standards for lithium batteries have been in place since January 1, 2015, with the release of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulations, 56th ed. The IATA DGR combines the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules for hazmat air shipments with additional airline and State requirements.

On January 26, 2015, the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued revised standards for shipping lithium batteries in the mail by ground and air. The latest USPS rules were published in USPS Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail.

hazmat lithium batteries

Boeing Guidance on Lithium Batteries

Last month, July 2015, plane manufacturer Boeing released recommendations on transporting lithium batteries to operators of Boeing freight and passenger planes, which expanded on a Multi Operator Message (MOM) about lithium batteries they issued in 2014.

The hazards of lithium batteries are all too familiar for Boeing. In 2014, ICAO banned the transport of lithium metal batteries shipped as cargo by air in response to two lithium battery-related fires on Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The safety issue ultimately contributed to the grounding of the entire fleet of new planes.

The New DOT Lithium Battery Rules

For a full summary of new lithium battery regulations, click here. The new rules include three major components: new definitions added to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), at 49 CFR 171.8; the incorporation of new Proper Shipping Names for lithium batteries; and a steep reduction to the allowances for “small” lithium batteries (SP 188).

Read more about changes to the lithium battery shipping standards here.

No More Packing Groups for Lithium Batteries

The rules for marking and documenting shipments of lithium batteries have also changed. “Packing Group,” or “PG,” is an indicator of the severity of hazard posed by a particular material or article, PG I being the highest, PG III being the lowest. Until now, lithium batteries were assigned to Packing Group II. With their new regulations, DOT has eliminated PG assignments for most articles—including lithium batteries. In other words, as of now, indicating PG for lithium batteries on shipping papers or other hazard communications is an HMR violation.

With the rules for lithium batteries continuously changing, it’s crucial that shippers stay up to date with the latest domestic and international transport regulations. Failure to comply with new rules can lead to rejected shipments, logistics delays, incidents in transit, or worse. In addition, US DOT civil penalties for noncompliance with the HMR are as high as $75,000 per day, per violation.

Interactive Training for Lithium Battery Shippers

Learn the latest rules and fulfill the DOT, IATA, and IMO training requirements for shipping lithium batteries by ground, air, and vessel with the Shipping Lithium Batteries online course. Complete your certification training at your own pace, from any Internet connect, 24/7, and get help from IT customer support available 7 days a week.

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, lithium batteries, new rules

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