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Interpretation Response #20-0008

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

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: FedEx Logistics

Individual Name: Marvin Sudduth

Location State: TN Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

July 17, 2020

Marvin A. Sudduth
Dangerous Goods Advisor
FedEx Logistics
5025 Tuggle Road
Memphis, TN  38118

Reference No. 20-0008

Dear Mr. Sudduth:

This letter is in response to your January 19, 2020, letter requesting clarification of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) applicable to lithium ion coin cell batteries. You state FedEx Logistics will initiate a shipment monitoring system using a lithium ion battery-powered sensor device. The device will contain one lithium ion coin cell battery and will be transported in commerce via air and ground transportation. It is your understanding that based on the size of the lithium ion coin cell battery and the exceptions provided in the HMR for a battery that size, the number of batteries that can be shipped in a package is unlimited. You also provide shipping scenarios FedEx Logistics might utilize for the transportation of these devices.

We have paraphrased and answered your questions as follows:

Q1. You ask whether a lithium ion battery-powered sensor device containing a coin (button) cell battery can be offered for transportation under the exceptions found in § 173.185(c) of the HMR in an unlimited quantity per package for air and ground transportation.

A1. Please be advised this answer is in two parts (emphasis added).

  • For ground transportation, a package containing only lithium button cell batteries installed in equipment, including the sensor device described in your letter, that comply with the requirements of § 173.185(c) is not subject to the hazard communication requirements in subparts C through H of part 172 of the HMR or the UN performance packaging requirements in § 173.185(b)(3)(ii) and (iii). This applies regardless of the number of sensor devices contained in the package. Further, the package is not subject to the marking requirements described in § 173.185(c)(1)(iii) provided the package does not exceed 5 kg net weight of lithium cells.
  • The answer is no for air transportation. For air transportation, a package with lithium cells contained in equipment is limited to the minimum number of cells required to power the piece of equipment, plus two spare sets1, and the total net quantity (mass) of the lithium cells or batteries in the completed package must not exceed 5 kg. (See 49 CFR § 173.185(c)(4) and (5)).

Q2. You ask whether a lithium ion battery-powered sensor device containing button cell batteries can be offered for transportation under the exceptions found in § 173.185(c) above a certain aggregate number in a package (e.g., you offer the scenario of 500 sensor devices in a package). That is, you ask whether there is a threshold aggregate quantity in a package such that the HMR requires shipment as fully regulated via air and ground transportation.

A2. See answer A1.

Please note that the size limit for a lithium ion cell shipped under the exceptions for smaller cells or batteries in § 173.185(c) is 20 Wh. Furthermore, even though lithium ion cells contained in equipment are excepted from certain requirements in the HMR, they are still considered a hazardous material (i.e., a dangerous good).

Moreover, all applicable FAA requirements must be complied with, including those in 14 CFR, § 91.21 that address operation of portable electronic devices aboard aircraft. Information and guidance to assist with compliance of this requirement can be found in Advisory Circular (AC) 91.21-1D, titled "Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft." For additional information regarding the FAA requirements or if you seek an interpretation on whether your particular device meets electronic transmission requirements contained in 14 CFR § 91.21 you may contact the FAA at the following address:

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of the Chief Counsel
Regulations Division
800 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20591

As well, there may be additional security requirements issued by the Transportation Security Administration pertaining to the transportation safety requirements for this device.

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


Dirk Der Kinderen
Chief, Standards Development Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division

173.185(c), 173.185(c)(4) and (5), 173.185(b)(3)(ii) and (iii).

1 A "set" of cells or batteries is the number of individual cells or batteries that are required to power each piece of equipment.

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
173.185 Lithium cells and batteries