New Lithium Battery Shipping Rules Mandatory August 7

Posted on 7/21/2015 by James Griffin

On August 6, 2014, PHMSA updated the lithium battery shipping provisions of the Hazardous Material Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR 171-180). The new lithium battery shipping rules more completely harmonize the US regulations with evolving international standards. While some dicrepancies remain, domestic and international rules for shipping lithium batteries are now more similar than ever.

Voluntary compliance with the new rules began immediately (Aug. 6, 2014), and the initial compliance deadline was 180 days after promulgation (Feb. 6, 2015). PHMSA later extended the deadline for shippers to August 7, 2015. Equivalent provisions for air and vessel shippers were part of the 56th Edition of IATA's Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR) and the 2014 Edition of the IMDG Code (Amendment 37). The IATA DGR rules have been in force since January 1 of this year, and mandatory compliance with the 2014 IMDG Code starts on January 1, 2016.

What Changed for Lithium Battery Shippers?

PHMSA's new lithium battery shipping regulations include three major components for lithium battery shippers:small lithium battery cell shipping regulations
  1. DOT added definitions of the terms "lithium ion cell or battery," "Lithium metal cell or battery," "short circuit," and "watt-hour" to the HMR at 49 CFR 171.8.
  2. DOT officially incorporated all six Proper Shipping Names and four identification numbers for lithium batteries into the Hazmat Table at 49 CFR 172.101, instead of operating under a conditional authorization in place since 2009.
  3. DOT reduced the multiplicity of special provisions that governed the transportation of "small" lithium batteries, placing those detailed provisions within the packing instructions for lithium batteries at 49 CFR 173.185.
DOT continues to provide additional relief from regulation for "medium"-sized lithium cells and batteries transported by ground in the United States. This exclusion goes beyond what is available in international codes. [49 CFR 173.185(c)(1)(iv)]

New Lithium Battery Communication & Marking Rules

There are two practices, currently recognized by DOT, that will no longer be available once mandatory compliance with the new rules starts on August 7, 2015:
  • Packing Group Assignments: Until now, lithium batteries were assigned to Packing Group II. This year, DOT and its international partners have eliminated packing group assignments for most articles, including lithium batteries. After August 6, 2015, US shippers may no longer indicate packing groups for lithium batteries on shipping papers or other communications.
  • Exclusions from alternate marking for large numbers of small batteries: Under Special Provision 188.f, DOT allowed shippers to avoid any labeling at all for packages that contained up to 12 small batteries or 24 small cells. Under the revised regulations, the only packages of lithium batteries that are excluded from on-package hazard communications are lithium batteries contained in equipment when there are no more than 2 batteries or 4 cells per package. [49 CFR 173.185(c)(3)]
This more complete harmonization between US DOT and international standards was made possible after international authorities agreed to prohibit most shipments of primary lithium metal cells and batteries from transport aboard passenger aircraft. [IATA DGR PI 968]

Lithium Battery Shippers: Be Ready on August 7

Be confident your site is ready to comply with the latest lithium battery shipping rules before the deadline. The Shipping Lithium Batteries Webinar covers the latest function-specific hazmat rules for shipping lithium batteries alone, in equipment, or with equipment. The interactive, instructor-led presentation will prepare you for compliance and will be presented next on August 4. Sign up now!

Tags: DOT, hazmat shipping, IATA, lithium batteries, marks and labels

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