USPS Proposes New Rules for Mailing Lithium Batteries

Posted on 2/24/2017 by Roger Marks

In the Federal Register on February 23, the US Postal Service announced its plans to revise Publication 52—the USPS guide for mailing hazardous, restricted, and perishable goods—to provide new mailing standards for lithium batteries.
Lithium ion battery transport rules
The changes to the Publication 52 lithium battery mailing standards USPS has proposed will largely mirror updates in PHMSA’s proposed rulemaking HM 215N, which aims to harmonize US DOT’s hazmat shipping rules with international standards like the International Civil Aviation Organization Technical Instructions (ICAO TI) and others.

While HM 215N was proposed and ostensibly finalized back late 2016, the harmonization rulemaking is now stalled due to the President’s “freeze” on new regulations. That said, the changes proposed in HM 215N are expected to be published as a Final Rule and take effect soon.

Read more about HM 215N: Urgent: PHMSA Withdraws HM 215N Hazmat Harmonization Rule

In this proposed rule, USPS lays out its plans to revise the lithium battery rules to:
  • Prohibit UN 3480 (lithium metal batteries shipped without equipment) in USPS air transportation;
  • Revise the quantity limitations for UN 3480 by ground from eight cells or two batteries to an aggregate limit of 5 pounds;
  • Eliminate the current text marking option for packages required or permitted to bear lithium battery markings;
  • Limit markings for lithium batteries to DOT-approved lithium battery handling marks;
  • Eliminate the requirement for accompanying documentation with lithium batteries sent by mail;
  • Add the new DOT class 9 hazard label to the section of DOT labels prohibited in the mail (Publication 52, Exhibit 325.1); and
  • Require rigid outer packaging of sufficient size to fit the lithium battery handling mark without folding.
Generally speaking, the US Postal Service only accepts lithium batteries that meet the criteria for exemption as “small” batteries under PHMSA’s rules at 49 CFR 173.185(c), meaning those with less than 2 grams of lithium content for a lithium-metal battery or less than 100 Wh for a lithium-ion battery. If you deal with larger shipments of lithium batteries, refer to US DOT’s Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to find the requirements that impact your shipments. 

Other New Lithium Battery Rules for 2017

The change made by US DOT in this Final Rule reflect updated international standards like those found in the 2017 IATA DGR. To read more about updated lithium battery rules for 2017, check out these recent Lion News features:

New IATA Lithium Battery Guidance for 2017
Live Training to Ship Lithium Batteries in 2017
IATA Clarifies DGR Training Rules for Lithium Battery Air Shippers

New Sessions Added—2017 Lithium Battery Shipper Training

Get full dangerous goods training to ship lithium batteries by ground, air, or vessel! This live, expert-led Shipping Lithium Batteries Webinar covers the latest rules for 2017—including new restrictions from FedEx and UPS for small lithium batteries shipped by air.

Join us for new sessions, just added for 2017, on March 2, April 4, or May 9. This webinar will prepare you to keep your shipments in compliance, avoid rejection, and protect your facility from fines now up to $77,114 per day, per violation.

Complete lithium battery shipper training is also available in a self-paced online course, available 24/7.

Tags: hazmat, lithium batteries, new rules, shipping

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