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Final Rule: 49 CFR Lithium Battery Regulations Revised

Posted on 12/27/2022 by Lion Technology Inc.

A Final Rule to amend the 49 CFR Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) for lithium battery shipments takes effect on January 20, 2023. Published to the Federal Register just before the winter holidays, the new Rule replaces an Interim Final Rule (IFR) that's been in effect for nearly four years.

Most of the amendments in the Final Rule have been effective since March 2019, when US DOT published an Interim Final Rule to harmonize its lithium battery air shipping regulations with international standards. Some of the changes appeared in earlier editions of the ICAO Technical Instructions (TI) and the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations as well.   

While the December 2022 Final Rule is largely consistent with the 2019 IFR, shippers should take note of some important revisions.

The Final Rule:

  • Prohibits transport of lithium-ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft; 
  • Limits lithium cells and batteries to 30 percent state-of-charge (SoC) when shipped alone on cargo-only aircraft (i.e., not in or with equipment); 
  • Limits the use of alternative provisions for smaller lithium cell or battery shipments to one package per consignment; and
  • Adds a labeling/marking requirement for certain shipments of excepted lithium cells or batteries. 

The Final Rule also adds an exception for air shipments of replacement lithium cells or batteries that power medical equipment (in some cases) and updates the HMR provisions that authorize the use of international standards for shipments that travel by air or vessel. 

New Marking Rule for All Modes of Transportation

The 2019 Interim Final Rule added a new marking requirement for some excepted lithium cells or batteries shipped by ANY mode of transportation. Shipments of excepted lithium cells or batteries must be marked with the Cargo Aircraft Only (CAO) label or a permitted alternate marking shown below when:

  • Excepted cells or batteries are shipped alone (UN 3480 and UN 3090); or
  • Excepted cells or batteries with a net weight greater than 5 kg are shipped in- or with-equipment (UN 3481 and UN 3091).

In lieu of the CAO label, the Interim Final Rule allowed shippers to mark these packages with one of three phrases (as applicable):


New: The Final Rule adds a fourth alternate marking option that shippers may use instead of the CAO label:


From the Final Rule: 

"Although PHMSA acknowledges this requirement is burdensome on persons who offer smaller lithium ion cells and batteries by modes other than aircraft, PHMSA determined that this hazard communication requirement across all modes ensures that smaller lithium ion cells and batteries are not accidentally or unintentionally offered as cargo on passenger aircraft." 

[87 FR 78003, 12/21/22]

Final Rule: 49 CFR Lithium Battery Regulations Revised

New: Exception for Medical Devices

To ensure that batteries needed to power life-saving medical equipment can reach areas of the US that are not served by cargo aircraft every day, PHMSA added an exception for medical devices in the Final Rule.  

With approval from PHMSA, a shipper may offer a maximum of two replacement lithium cells or batteries specifically used for medical devices as cargo on passenger aircraft. When certain provisions are met, these replacement cells or batteries may be excepted from the 30% state-of-charge restriction.  

New: Updated International References in Part 171

Because PHMSA’s lithium battery regulations are not totally consistent with international requirements, the Final Rule adds clarifying language to the HMR provisions that allow shippers to follow international regulations for shipments that travel by air or vessel.  

The Final Rule amends 49 CFR 171.12, 171.24, and 171.25—which lay out additional requirements for shippers following the ICAO Technical Instructions (TI) or the IMDG Code—to specify that:

  • Lithium-ion cells and batteries are forbidden from transportation as cargo on passenger aircraft; and
  • Certain shipments of excepted lithium batteries must be marked with an indication that the package is forbidden from transport aboard passenger aircraft (i.e., the CAO label or one of the four alternatives).
The full text of the Final Rule was published to the December 21 Federal Register

Shipping Lithium Batteries Training

Lion's Shipping Lithium Batteries online course prepares shippers to navigate and apply the regulations for shipping lithium batteries alone, in-equipment, or with-equipment by ground, air, and vessel, including the latest IATA DGR standards for air shippers in effect for 2023.

The course provides hazmat general awareness, security awareness, and function-specific training to help satisfy US DOT (49 CFR), IATA DGR, and IMDG Code training mandates for logistics leaders and hazmat employees involved in shipping lithium batteries by all modes of transportation (Learn more). 

Browse all upcoming workshops, including training coming in 2023, at Lion.com/Hazmat

Tags: hazardous materials, hazmat shipping, lithium batteries, lithium batteries by air

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