A top US regulatory official has held out the prospect of airlines totally halting transports of batteries unless changes are made to existing safety requirements.
Janet McLaughlin, director of the Federal Aviation Agency’s HazMat Safety Programme, indicated the move could be on the cards by air freight operators amid increasing fears of fire risks.
Such a move would intensify pressures on battery manufacturers since a ban on freight shipments of batteries on planes that also carry passengers came into force in 2016.
And industry insiders told BBB further attempts to tighten air transport restrictions could eventually pose problems for passengers carrying products containing batteries.
McLaughlin told the International Battery Seminar & Exhibit in Florida things cannot continue as they are.
“The US airline passenger forecast is to grow by 400 million over the next 20 years,” McLaughlin said, adding that about 700,000 passengers are flying at any one time in the US.
“Responsibility to assess risk is down to the battery producers. It’s becoming much more difficult for the aviation industry every year,” McLaughlin warned.
“The airlines currently have to rely on what they are told by battery manufacturers is contained in boxes. So the risk of whatever battery product is included has to be vindicated to some level that everyone can rely on before it ever goes into transportation. We can’t keep managing this way.”
“It is not possible for the aviation industry to determine the risk package by package and shipper by shipper. But we require airlines to do safety risk assessments. So if they cannot determine a level or risk that a package represents, that’s going to become very difficult. They are going to struggle with that.”
McLaughlin urged battery makers to work with aviation chiefs, regulators and other agencies to come up with a workable solution that pre-empted potential future moves by airlines to halt all battery freight.
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