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Frequently Asked Questions: Enhanced Safety Provisions for Lithium Batteries by Aircraft IFR

General

  1. What is the purpose of this rulemaking?  This rulemaking amends the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) to harmonize with international air transportation requirements by (1) prohibiting the transport of lithium ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft; (2) requiring lithium ion cells and batteries to be shipped at not more than a 30 percent state of charge aboard cargo-only aircraft when not packed with or contained in equipment; and (3) limiting the use of alternative provisions for small lithium cell or battery shipments to one package per consignment. 
  1. Why is this rulemaking an interim final rule (IFR)?  PHMSA published this rulemaking as an IFR because the public comment period associated with traditional rulemakings would have prevented compliance with the 90-day statutory rulemaking mandate in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, Pub. L. 115-254 (October 5, 2018, FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018).[1]
  1. Can the public comment on this IFR?  Yes.  Interested parties may submit comments to Docket Number [PHMSA‑2016‑0014 (HM‑224I)] at http://www.regulations.gov or by any of the other methods identified in this IFR.[2]  The comment period closes [date 60 days after published in the Federal Register] but PHMSA may consider relevant comments received following closure of the comment period.

Passenger Aircraft Prohibition

  1. What is now prohibited?  The transportation of lithium ion cells and batteries (shipped under UN identification number UN3480) as cargo on passenger aircraft is now prohibited.
  1. Does this affect lithium ion cells and batteries transported with or contained in equipment?  No. Lithium ion cells and batteries transported with or contained in equipment (shipped under the UN identification number UN3481) are still authorized for transportation as cargo on passenger aircraft under the HMR at a state of charge greater than 30 percent of their rated capacity.
  1. Does this restrict passengers or crew members from bringing personal items or electronic devices containing lithium cells or batteries aboard aircraft?  No, this restriction is only for the transportation of lithium ion cells or batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft.  Manufacturers and retailers sometimes ship lithium ion cells and batteries using passenger aircraft and this practice will no longer be allowed for lithium ion cells and batteries.
  1. Are there alternatives to allow shipping a lithium ion cell or battery at a state of charge greater than 30 percent?  PHMSA’s Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety may authorize the transportation of lithium ion cells or batteries on cargo-aircraft at a state of charge higher than 30 percent. .  A person who wishes to apply for an approval may do so by submitting an application to the Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety in conformance with the requirements prescribed in 49 CFR Part 107, Subpart H, which includes demonstrating an equivalent level of safety.  Information on the approval application process can be found at: https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/approvals-and-permits/hazmat/hazardous-materials-approvals-and-permits-overview or by calling PHMSA’s Approvals and Permits Division at (202) 366-4511.
  1. Why is PHMSA implementing a consignment and overpack restriction?  The restriction is aimed at preventing the consolidation of large numbers of lithium cell and battery shipments in a single overpack or consignment under provisions designed for small quantities of batteries.  This is another safety measure to reduce risk by limiting the possibility of an incident occurring with one package from expanding to other packages.

Limited Exceptions to Restrictions on Air Transportation of Medical Device Cells or Batteries

  1. What exception is PHMSA providing?  With the approval of the Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, no more than two lithium cells or batteries used for a medical device may be transported on a passenger aircraft and at a state of charge greater than 30 percent, under specified conditions.  This exception applies when the intended destination of the cells or batteries is not serviced daily by cargo aircraft and the batteries are required for medically necessary care.
  1. What does PHMSA define as a medical device?  PHMSA is adding a definition of a medical device to mean “an instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, or in vitro reagent, including any component, part, or accessory thereof, which is intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, of a person.”

[1] PHMSA’s compliance with the statutory deadline was negatively impacted by a lapse in funding from December 22, 2018 through January 25, 2019, that affected PHMSA, FAA, and other government agencies.

[2] See ADDRESSES

Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019