New rules restricting the ways lithium-ion batteries are transported are among a handful of regulatory changes the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is expected to make in 2018.
According to Occupational Health and Safety, the proposed rule-making is one of five rules governing the handling of hazardous materials the DOT is expected to pass and publish as final rules before the fall of 2018.
The new rules, Enhanced Safety Provisions for Lithium Batteries Transported by Aircraft, will put the U.S. in step with international requirements for lithium-ion battery rules already in effect.
The new safety rules were proposed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the DOT agency charged with regulating hazmat shipments. The new rules will:
- Prohibit lithium-ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft;
- Limit the electrical charge on lithium-ion batteries being shipped by air to 30 percent;
- Limit the use of alternate provisions for small cells or batteries by aircraft.
“This rule is necessary to address an immediate safety hazard and harmonize the U.S. [Hazardous Materials Regulations] with emergency amendments to the 2015-2016 edition of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air,” the PHMSA said in its rulemaking abstract.
The objective of the new rule, of course, is to “eliminate the possibility of a package of lithium-ion batteries causing or contributing to a fire in the cargo hold of a passenger aircraft,” the PHMSA stated.
Lithium-ion batteries are being used to power an increasing array of consumer devices. The batteries pack a powerful charge and can become extremely volatile and dangerous if they are misused, stored or transported improperly, damaged, contain a manufacturing flaw, or overcharged.
Lithium-ion battery explosions often generate intense flames that are difficult to extinguish. The batteries also may re-ignite repeatedly, posing an exceptional danger to airplanes and other aircraft used to transport them.