PHMSA Considering Harmonization with International Air Requirements for Transport of Lithium Batteries and Cells

Lithium Battery PackagingPHMSA is attempting to breathe new life into stronger domestic shipping standards for lithium batteries with a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) issued today.

PHMSA originally issued a NPRM to address the air transportation risks posed by lithium cells and batteries more than two years ago. Since that time, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) has met several times to discuss and modify the provisions applicable to the air transport of lithium cells and batteries, including a special working group this past February.

“Given the increased efficiency and clarity in having a uniform global standard, PHMSA considers harmonization with international standards when there is no adverse impact to safety,” the notice states. “Therefore, consistent with 49 USC 5120, PHMSA is now considering harmonizing the HMR with lithium battery provisions recently adopted by ICAO and which will become effective on January 1, 2013.”

Our previous blog entry on the February 2012 ICAO DGP meeting highlighted these revised shipping standards. The major change that resulted from that meeting was packages of lithium batteries exceeding limits specified in Table 965 II (for lithium ion) and 968 II (for lithium metal) will now be assigned to Class 9 and subject to all of the applicable provisions of the ICAO Technical Instructions, except that they need not be transported in UN specification packagings and the dangerous goods transport document requirements of 5.4 are not applicable provided alternative written documentation is provided, in which case the shipper must provide written documentation describing the contents of the consignment. Where an agreement exists with the operator, the shipper may provide the information by electronic data processing (EDP) or electronic data interchange (EDI) techniques. The information required must be shown in the following order:

  1. The name and address of the shipper and consignee
  2. UN 3480
  3. Lithium ion batteries PI 965 1.B
  4. The number of packages and the gross mass of each package

A complete recap of the meeting can be found at “ICAO DGP Concludes Discussions, Agrees to Amend ICAO Technical Instructions to Further Reduce Risk Associated with Lithium Battery Shipments.” In addition, ICAO released a meeting report in late February.

PHMSA also is requesting public comments on the impact of these changes should they be adopted. A comprehensive listing of the qualitative and quantitative information requested by PHMSA can be found in the NPRM.

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If adopted, the fact that these new rules would be difficult to implement is an understatement. Our Labelmaster Services team can assist you in developing a lithium battery compliance program, conducting compliance assessments, creating a training program, and forming standard operating procedures (SOPs) or job aides for your company. In addition, our experts can help organizations and parties interested in preparing comments to the proposed rule. Please contact us at or 866-655-5539 for more information on these services. Finally, Labelmaster offers a variety of product solutions for shippers of lithium batteries and cells, including labels, packaging and shipping guides.

We will continue to monitor the progress of this NPRM and provide updates when they become available. Should you have any questions in the interim, please contact us at 800-621-5808.


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