USPS Updates Pub 52 Hazmat Mail Rules Effective July 9

Posted on 5/3/2023 by Lion Technology Inc.

The US Postal Service (USPS) is requiring mailers of hazardous materials/dangerous goods (DG) to use new “service codes” to identify hazmat shipments and to notify USPS when hazmat is tendered. Except for one provision discussed below, the rule takes effect on July 9, 2023. 

To send hazardous materials through the postal system, mailers will be required to: 

  • Identify hazmat using a distinct service code or codes, and
  • Submit an electronic file (SSF) to inform USPS about hazmat shipments. 

The rule also requires mailers/shippers to incorporate special "Intelligent Mail" barcodes on shipping labels for domestic mailpieces containing hazmat. Those barcodes will be required as of January 21, 2024. 

From the Final Rule: 

“The rule standardizes the acceptance and handling of package shipments containing HAZMAT/DG by collecting electronic data to ensure these items are handled appropriately with regards to the category of HAZMAT/DG contained within the package and to create electronic manifests for the Postal Service’s air carrier suppliers.” 

Final Rule: Electronic Indicators for the Mailing of Hazardous Materials [88 FR 3559]

The Final Rule revises the Postal Service manual Publication 52, Restricted, Hazardous, and Perishable Mail, called Pub 52 for short. Publication 52 is available online.

USPS Updates Pub 52 Hazmat Mail Rules Effective July 9

New USPS Hazmat Service Codes 

The revised Publication 52 rules require mailers to use Extra Service Code (ESC) 857 for all shipments containing hazardous materials/dangerous goods. This includes domestic, international, and APO/FPO/DPO destinations.

Mailers sending to APO/FPO/DPO destinations are required to use one or more additional codes if a package contains radioactive material, lithium batteries (in an unmarked package), or Division 6.2 hazardous materials (i.e., infectious substances). 

The rule also adds 20 additional ESCs that identify specific types of hazardous materials. Use of these extra codes is optional for now, but will be mandatory for domestic transportation in the future, USPS says.

A few examples of these material-specific ESCs include:

  • 810 Air Eligible Ethanol Package
  • 812 Hazardous Materials Class 3—Package
  • 828 Ground Only Hazardous Materials 
  • 829 ID8000 Consumer Commodity Package
  • 830 Lighters Package 
  • 831 LTD QTY Ground Package 

The list of ESCs includes four entries related to lithium batteries shipped with USPS: 

  • 816 Class 9—Lithium Battery Marked—Ground Only Package
  • 817 Class 9—Lithium Battery—Returns Package 
  • 818 Class 9—Lithium batteries, marked package
  • 820 HAZMAT Class 9—Lithium batteries, unmarked package 

In some cases, hazmat mailers will also be required to use additional service codes (STCs) that provide USPS with details about how to handle the package; like whether a signature is required upon delivery or what mail type is requested (Priority, First-Class, etc.).

Read the full text of the USPS Final Rule in the April 21, 2023 Federal Register

US Postal Service publication 52 hazardous materials rule change

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