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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #18-0161

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: MSC Industrial Direct

Individual Name: David Cox

Location State: NY Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

May 2, 2019

David Cox
Senior Regulatory Compliance Specialist
MSC Industrial Direct
75 Maxess Road
Melville, NY. 11747

Reference No. 18-0161

Dear Mr. Cox:

This letter is in response to your December 21, 2018, email requesting clarification of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) applicable to lithium batteries. Specifically, you ask if clothing that contain lithium cells or batteries (e.g., heated jackets/vests, promotional flashing LED hats, flashing LED sneakers, etc.) meet the definition of "equipment" in § 173.185. You provide specific information on a heated jacket with removable sleeves for reference.

The answer is yes. Section 173.185 defines "equipment" as the device or apparatus for which the lithium cells or batteries will provide electrical power for its operation. In the examples provided, the lithium cells or batteries provide power to the heating element or LED in the jackets/vests, hats, sneakers, etc. Therefore, the piece of clothing containing the lithium cells or batteries would be considered "equipment" for the purposes of the HMR.

Section 173.185(b)(4) provides the general packaging requirements for lithium batteries contained in equipment. Paragraph (i) states that, when used, the outer packaging must be constructed of suitable material of adequate strength and design in relation to the capacity and intended use of the packaging, unless the lithium cells or batteries are afforded equivalent protection by the equipment in which they are contained. It is the opinion of this Office that the clothing in the examples from your email may not provide equivalent protection for the lithium cells and batteries that they contain and therefore may require rigid outer packaging. Please note that when equipment containing lithium cells or batteries is placed in an outer package, § 173.185(b)(4)(ii) requires the equipment to be secured against movement and packed to prevent accidental operation during transport.

I hope this information is helpful.  Please contact us if we can be of further assistance.


T. Glenn Foster
Chief, Regulatory Review and Reinvention
Standards and Rulemaking Division

173.185, 173.185(b)(4), 173.185(b)(4)(ii)

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
173.185 Lithium cells and batteries