[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 193 (Wednesday, October 7, 2009)]
[Pages 51643-51645]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-24184]



Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

[Docket No. PHMSA-2009-0310; Notice No. 09-05]

Advisory Guidance; Transportation of Batteries and Battery-
Powered Devices

AGENCY: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), 

ACTION: Safety advisory.


SUMMARY: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration 
(PHMSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are alerting 
shippers and carriers to the importance of transporting lithium 
batteries safely. PHMSA and FAA are concerned that many persons who 
ship lithium batteries do not recognize the hazards posed by these 
batteries during transportation. We are issuing this advisory guidance 
to (1) Inform persons of recent aviation incidents involving fires 
aboard both passenger and cargo aircraft and the potential hazards that 
shipments of lithium batteries may present while in transportation, (2) 
provide information concerning the current requirements for the 
transportation of lithium batteries and (3) inform persons of the 
actions we have taken to date and plan to take in the future to address 
the hazards of these batteries.


I. Background

    Lithium batteries are considered hazardous materials in 
transportation because they present both chemical (e.g., flammable 
electrolytes) and electrical hazards. If not safely packaged and 
handled when transported, lithium batteries can become dangerous. 
Defective batteries or batteries that are misused, mishandled, 
improperly packaged, improperly stored, improperly manufactured, or 
overcharged can overheat and ignite and, once ignited, fires can be 
especially difficult to extinguish. Overheating has the potential to 
create a thermal runaway, a chain reaction leading to self-heating and 
release of the battery's stored energy. Fires in aircraft can result in 
catastrophic events presenting unique challenges not encountered in 
other transport modes.

II. Recent Transportation Incidents

    Since 1991, we have identified over 40 air transport-related 
incidents involving lithium batteries and devices powered by lithium 
batteries. A list of these incidents can be found on the FAA Web site 
at: http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ash/ash_programs/hazmat/aircarrier_info/media/Battery_incident_chart.pdf. These incidents occurred aboard passenger aircraft and cargo 
aircraft, prior to loading batteries aboard an aircraft, and after 
batteries were transported by air. Many of the incidents were directly 
related to a lack of awareness of the required safety measures 
applicable to shipments of lithium batteries or because passengers 
failed to follow preventative measures to protect batteries from short 
circuit or damage.
     On September 9, 2009 a passenger flight declared an 
emergency after a passenger attempted to hand the flight attendant a 
carrier-provided personal electronic device (PED). The PED was dropped 
and upon impact with the cabin floor the battery pack sparked and began 
smoking. Two flight attendants extinguished the fire with water.
     On August 25, 2009 DOT received information related to a 
smoking and burning package that was discovered at a Medford, 
Massachusetts sorting facility. Upon inspection, the consignment was 
discovered to contain 30 individual batteries grouped together in six 
or seven battery packs. The package contained lithium batteries that 
were shipped as general cargo. There were no markings or labels on the 
outer package indicating the material was a hazardous material.
     On August 15, 2009 a package containing lithium ion 
batteries was found smoldering, and emitting smoke in a unit load 
device (ULD) in an aircraft loading facility in Taipei, Taiwan. The ULD 
had been carried from the Island of Macau. Personnel in the Taiwan 
facility responded quickly to extinguish the

[[Page 51644]]

smoldering fire before any open flames were seen. The packages were 
unmarked and the contents were noted on the invoice as ``electrical 
     On August 14, 2009 after landing the aircraft, the flight 
crew received a warning indicating smoke in the forward cargo 
compartment. Initial indications are that a fire originated with a 
shipment of approximately 1,000 e-cigarettes, each containing a lithium 
metal battery. There were no markings or labels indicating the 
materials posed a specific hazard or contained lithium batteries.
     On July 15, 2009 one of several related packages 
transported from Romulus, Michigan was discovered emitting smoke and 
smoldering upon arrival in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Upon 
inspection, the package was found to contain numerous loose lithium-ion 
cell phone batteries haphazardly packed with no apparent measures to 
protect against short-circuits or overheating. Package documentation 
indicated, ``used batteries--non haz.''

III. Current Regulatory Requirements

    The Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-180) 
include requirements for packaging, hazard communication and handling 
lithium batteries. For transportation by all modes, lithium batteries 
of all types and sizes must pass a series of tests outlined in the UN 
Manual of Tests and Criteria. These tests are designed to ensure the 
battery can withstand the conditions typically encountered in 
transportation. In addition, all batteries must be packaged to prevent 
short circuits, including movement that could lead to short circuits 
and damage to the batteries (See Sec.  172.102(c) SP 188, 189 and Sec.  
173.185). The HMR also impose additional restrictions on the transport 
of lithium batteries in the air mode, including a limited prohibition 
on the transport of lithium metal batteries as cargo on board passenger 
aircraft (See Sec.  172.102(c) SP A100). Additionally, damaged, 
defective or recalled lithium batteries (including those being returned 
to the manufacturer as part of a safety recall) should not be 
transported aboard aircraft. Recommended practices for preparing 
recalled batteries for ground transportation are set forth in ``DOT 
Guidance for the Safe Transportation of Recalled Lithium Batteries,'' 
available for download at http://safetravel.dot.gov/downloads.html.
    While certain small lithium batteries and cells are afforded 
exceptions from some regulatory requirements, the cells and batteries 
must be separated or packaged in a manner to prevent short circuits 
(See Sec.  172.102(c) SP 188 and 189). When a package contains multiple 
lithium cells or batteries, the package must be:
     Marked to indicate that it contains lithium batteries and 
that special procedures should be followed in the event the package is 
     Accompanied by a document indicating that the package 
contains lithium batteries and special procedures should be followed in 
the event that the package is damaged;
     Capable of withstanding a 1.2 meter drop test in any 
orientation without damage to cells or batteries contained in the 
package, without shifting of the contents that would allow short 
circuits and without release of package contents; and
     Not more than 30 kg (66 pounds) gross mass.

In addition all electrical devices that are likely to create sparks or 
generate a dangerous quantity of heat are forbidden for transportation 
unless packaged in a manner that precludes such an occurrence (See 
Sec.  173.21).

IV. Current and Future Efforts

    To enhance understanding and compliance with the HMR, we initiated 
several public outreach efforts designed to connect with both the 
travelling public and the larger shipping community. Since 2007 we have 
published numerous safety advisories, created the SafeTravel Web site 
dedicated to providing information to the air travelling public on the 
safe transport of a variety of materials including lithium batteries 
and partnered with airlines, battery manufacturers and others to spread 
our safety message. Additionally, the PHMSA Hazardous Materials Safety 
Assistance Team initiated an outreach campaign. As part of this 
campaign, team members visited retailers and others involved in the 
production, distribution and sale of lithium batteries. During their 
visits, team members provided kits on how to provide information on the 
safe shipment of lithium batteries and encouraged those persons the 
team visited to include the SafeTravel link on their Web sites. In 
March 2009, DOT published ``Shipping Batteries Safely by Air; What You 
Need to Know,'' targeting infrequent shippers who may be unfamiliar 
with appropriate packing methods. This guide explains the regulations 
covering the classification, packaging and hazard communication 
requirements for the transportation of batteries shipped by aircraft in 
terms easy to understand.
    Despite these outreach efforts, aviation incidents involving 
lithium batteries continue to occur. For example, the July 15, 2009 
incident involved a shipment containing several thousand lithium ion 
cell phone batteries loosely placed into fiberboard packages, with no 
protection from short circuits and no package markings indicating the 
presence of lithium batteries. One of the packages was discovered 
emitting smoke after landing at its destination. These and similar 
incidents are the cause of significant concern by PHMSA and FAA. 
Documents included with the shipment indicated the packages contained 
non-hazardous used batteries.
    Non-compliance with the transportation requirements for lithium 
batteries poses serious safety consequences. Therefore, we are again 
increasing our efforts to reduce this risk by stepping up our already 
aggressive enforcement of the safety standards and reenergizing our 
awareness and outreach efforts. Accordingly, we are publishing this 
safety advisory to further promote awareness of the ongoing safety 
concern and ensure that shippers and carriers are aware of the risks 
associated with the transportation of lithium batteries, the current 
regulatory requirements applicable to such transportation, and that 
regulatory violations will be prosecuted to the maximum extent 
permitted under the law. We are particularly concerned with undeclared 
shipments of lithium batteries and we will be focusing on discovering 
these shipments and those persons responsible for offering them in 
transportation. We encourage anyone with information on those engaged 
in this practice to bring them to our attention through our online 
complaints Web site at: http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/phmsa-ext/feedback/hazmatComplaintsRegsViolationsForm.jsp or by calling the Hazardous 
Materials Information Center at: 1-800-467-4922.
    Persons who violate the HMR may be subject to significant civil 
penalties and/or criminal fines and imprisonment. In determining the 
amount of a civil penalty the following factors will be determined: (1) 
The nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the violation; (2) 
with respect to the violator, the degree of culpability, and history of 
prior violations, the ability to pay, and any effect on the ability to 
continue to do business; and (3) other matters that justice requires. 
Maximum civil penalties may be imposed of up to $50,000 per violation 
or $100,000 per violation if a death, serious illness, or severe injury 
occurs to a person or substantial destruction of property.

[[Page 51645]]

Potential criminal penalties include fines of up to $500,000 and/or ten 
years in jail. In a recent enforcement case, PHMSA assessed a total 
civil penalty of $360,000 for multiple violations of the HMR relating 
to the improper shipment of used batteries for recycling or disposal. 
To date, FAA has closed over 75 investigations concerning battery 
violations observed in air transport and has collected over $1,000,000 
in civil penalties.
    More detailed information on the requirements in the HMR governing 
the shipment of batteries and additional guidance are available on 
DOT's Hazmat Safety Web site: http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat. The HMR 
are also accessible through our Web site, and answers to specific 
questions may be obtained from the Hazardous Materials Information 
Center at 1-800-467-4922 (in Washington, DC, call 202-366-4488).

    Issued in Washington, DC, on September 29, 2009.
Theodore L. Willke,
Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety.
[FR Doc. E9-24184 Filed 10-6-09; 8:45 am]