PRBA Endorses U.N. Efforts to Improve Lithium Ion Battery Transport Safety Regulations

RBA-The Rechargeable Battery Association Endorses U.N. Efforts to Improve Lithium Ion Battery Transport Safety Regulations, Reiterates Call for Increased Compliance, Tougher Enforcement

Washington (December 5, 2011) – PRBA-The Rechargeable Battery Association today praised efforts last week by the United Nations Subcommittee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods to bolster the lithium ion battery transport safety regulations.

“PRBA is pleased to confirm its support for several battery safety measures, including one introduced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, discussed by the Subcommittee last week,” said PRBA Executive Director George Kerchner, who attended the U.N. meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

However, these somewhat technical safety requirements are only part of ongoing efforts to ensure the safe transport of lithium ion batteries, Kerchner emphasized. “Safety remains our No. 1 priority. It is best achieved when enforcement agencies around the world remain vigilant and aggressively use their authority to force noncompliant shippers of lithium ion batteries and products containing these batteries to comply with the law,” Kerchner said.

PRBA has repeatedly informed air safety experts that the handful of battery incidents around the world occurred because of ineffectual compliance with existing regulations and inadequate government enforcement. PRBA also has repeatedly urged greater U.S. and international enforcement of existing packaging, labeling and shipping requirements. Mr. Kerchner addressed these issues in numerous transportation forums in 2011, including the World Cargo Symposium in Istanbul and Lithium Battery Transportation Workshop in Shanghai.

PRBA also has emphasized the need for consistent rules in all countries. “We share the view, often expressed by U.S. Department of Transportation officials, that different requirements increase confusion, which increases risk,” said Kerchner.

PRBA reiterated its concerns in a letter this summer to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The letter was also signed by 18 other companies and trade groups. “The failure of some shippers to comply with these requirements has been the root cause of virtually all of reported air cargo transport incidents,” including the three most recent lithium battery incidents citied by the Federal Aviation Administration. “Indeed, none of the incidents listed by FAA—and no others of which we are aware—were attributable to properly packaged, compliant shipments,” the letter added.

“But the U.S. DOT does not appear to be increasing enforcement pressures on shippers of improperly packaged lithium batteries or addressing shippers’ violations of regulations,” the  letter stated.

PRBA and other organizations have also emphasized the need for regulatory initiatives to track down the manufacturers of counterfeit batteries because of the risks such batteries pose in transportation. PRBA has also recommended that DOT should coordinate enforcement and outreach efforts with regulators in countries where shipments of counterfeit batteries originate and publicize actions taken against non-compliant shippers.

“Regulators must act. The recent efforts by the U.N. Subcommittee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods are a step in the right direction. But there is more work to be done,” Kerchner said.

About PRBA

The members of PRBA power the consumer electronics revolution. We deliver a safe, efficient, and essential power source for portable electronic equipment such as notebook computers, cell phones, power tools, PDAs, and MP3 players, as well as hybrid and electric vehicles. PRBA members produce approximately 70 percent of the world’s lithium ion cells and account for billions of dollars in annual worldwide sales. With more than 70 members, PRBA is widely recognized as the nation’s authoritative source for information on rechargeable batteries.