The New Lithium Battery Rule You Might Have Missed

Posted on 3/29/2019 by Roger Marks and Joel Gregier, CDGP

In its recent lithium battery shipping harmonization Interim Final Rule, HM 224I, the US DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) added a new marking/labeling requirement for excepted lithium batteries shipped by all modes (including ground shipments).

In addition to harmonizing 49 CFR regulations with the latest international (ICAO TI, IATA DGR) requirements for lithium battery air shipments, PHMSA added a new rule at 49 CFR 173.185(c)(1)(iii).

Under the newly added requirement, the following lithium battery ground shipments MUST display the Cargo Aircraft Only (CAO) label or one of three other markings (see “note” below):   
  • Excepted lithium batteries shipped alone (UN 3480 and 3090)
  • Excepted lithium batteries with a net weight greater than 5kg shipped in- or with-equipment (UN 3481 and 3091)
Like the rest of the Interim Final Rule, the new labeling requirement took effect immediately on March 6, 2019. PHMSA will accept comments on the Interim Final Rule until May 6, 2019. Submit comments here. 

Lion has reached out to PHMSA for clarification on this new requirement in the Interim Final Rule and we will provide an update once we recieve a response. 

Join us for the Shipping Lithium Batteries Webinar to get up to speed on all the new or recently updated requirements for shipping lithium batteries—big or small—by ground, air, or vessel. The next session is on July 11 at 1 PM ET.

Alternative Marking Option

Note: Shippers may use one of the following markings instead of the Cargo Aircraft Only label (as applicable):

As PHMSA puts it in the Interim Final Rule: 

(c) * * *

(1) * * *

(iii) Except when lithium cells or batteries are packed with or contained in equipment in quantities not exceeding 5 kg net weight, the outer package that contains lithium cells or batteries must be appropriately marked: “PRIMARY LITHIUM BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT”, “LITHIUM METAL BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT”, “LITHIUM ION BATTERIES—FORBIDDEN FOR TRANSPORT ABOARD PASSENGER AIRCRAFT” or labeled with a “CARGO AIRCRAFT ONLY” label specified in § 172.448 of this subchapter.

Why Did PHMSA Add the CAO Label Rule?

The Cargo Aircraft Only label requirement is unique in that it was a new requirement included in a “harmonization” Interim Final Rule. The Cargo Aircraft Only label is typically only required for air shipments of hazmat, but the DOT has expanded this to be now required for ground shipments of certain lithium batteries.

Because HM 224I was an Interim Final Rule, the new label rule for ground shipments included in it was not subject to the normal proposal and public comment period that would be standard for new, non-harmonizing rule changes.

After contacting PHMSA to ask why a new requirement was added this way, Lion hazmat instructor Joel Gregier reports that that US hazmat regulators feel the Cargo Aircraft Only label (or one of the other three markings) is needed on these ground shipments to prevent prohibited lithium batteries from entering air transport.

The CAO label requirement added in HM 224I is not the only new rule lithium battery shippers must adjust to in 2019. New, more broadly applicable marking and labeling requirements for lithium batteries took effect January 1, 2019.  

2019 Training for Lithium Battery Shippers

Be confident your lithium battery shipments will be accepted for transport and delivered safely by ground, air, or ocean. Whether you ship lithium-ion or lithium-metal batteries, full-size or excepted size, in-equipment, with-equipment, or by themselves - find training to help you achieve and maintain full compliance with 49 CFR, IATA DGR, and IMDG Code regulations for 2019. 

Learn more at 

Tags: 49CFR, IATA DGR, lithium batteries, PHMSA, shipping lithium batteries

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