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U.S. Department of Transportation New Lithium Battery Interim Final Rule Has Immediate Impact on All Modes of Transport

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published on March 6, 2019 its long-awaited lithium battery Interim Final Rule (IFR) that is intended to generally harmonize the U.S. lithium ion and lithium metal battery hazardous materials regulations (HMR) with the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.  The new requirements in the IFR took effect on March 6th.

There are several key provisions applicable to the air transport of lithium ion cells and batteries that are being adopted through this rulemaking.  These include:

  1. Limiting lithium ion cells and batteries to 30% state of charge (SOC). This SOC limit does not apply to cells and batteries packed with or contained in equipment.
  2. Prohibiting lithium ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft. Again, this prohibition does not apply to cells and batteries packed with or contained in equipment.  In addition, PHMSA is providing a limited exception from this prohibition for lithium ion and lithium metal cells and batteries designed to power medical devices.
  3. Limiting the use of excepted lithium ion and lithium metal cell and battery shipments to one package per consignment.

Another important aspect of the IFR is that the U.S. DOT now requires an additional package mark and label for excepted lithium ion cells (≤ 20 Wh) and batteries (≤ 100 Wh) when shipped by highway or rail in the U.S.  The new package mark and label requirements, which took effect March 6th, are generally consistent with what has been required in the U.S. since December 2004 for shipping excepted lithium metal cells and batteries by motor vehicle or rail.

Public comments on the IFR must be filed with the U.S. DOT by May 6, 2019.