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US tightens lithium-ion battery transportation rules

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 00:00 -- John Shepherd
Us Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao

The US is tightening transportation regulations with new measures for carrying lithium-ion cells and batteries on cargo planes “to address an immediate safety hazard”.

The federal government said airlines would be barred from carrying “potentially hazardous lithium-ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft”.

And lithium-ion cells and batteries will have to be generally shipped with a state of charge of no more than 30% on cargo aircraft.

Transportation secretary Elaine Chao (pictured) said the move “will strengthen safety for the traveling public by addressing the unique challenges lithium batteries pose in transportation”.

The new rules were unveiled on 27 February by the transportation department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Congress had ordered the agency to introduce the new regulations— adopting requirements that have been in force in other countries since 2016. However, major US carriers already voluntarily comply with requirements that were adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization and that took effect in April 2016.

The rules do not restrict passengers or crew members from bringing personal items or electronic devices containing lithium cells or batteries aboard aircraft, or restrict cargo planes from transporting lithium-ion cells or batteries at a state of charge exceeding 30% when packed with or contained in equipment or devices.

Last year, Janet McLaughlin, director of the Federal Aviation Agency’s HazMat Safety Programme, 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.

Earlier this year, the federal government formed expert groups to study lithium-ion battery safety issues in manufacturing and transportation.

The PHMSA’s interim final rule detailing the new measures is available online.

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