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Compliance Date for Lithium Battery Transport Rule Extended

Friday, February 20, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has extended from Feb. 6 to Aug. 7, for modes of transportation other than air, the mandatory compliance date of an August 2014 final rule revising the Hazardous Materials Regulations concerning the transport of lithium cells and batteries. As a result, shippers in all modes other than air have until Aug. 7 to incorporate the requirements of the final rule into their standard operating procedures and complete the training of affected personnel. PHMSA is maintaining the Feb. 6 compliance date for air transport.

The final rule revised hazard communication and packaging provisions for lithium batteries to harmonize the HMR with applicable provisions of the United Nations Model Regulations, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. Specific changes include separate shipping descriptions for lithium metal batteries and lithium ion batteries; revised provisions for the transport of small and medium lithium cells and batteries, including cells and batteries packed with, or contained in, equipment; revised requirements for the transport of lithium batteries for disposal or recycling; and new provisions for the transport of damaged, defective and recalled lithium batteries.

PHMSA states that it received a joint request for a six-month extension of the mandatory compliance date from four industry groups asserting that the final rule has proven extremely challenging for the retail industry to implement, particularly for surface transportation. The request pointed out that (a) the new regulations require that domestic ground shipments of products with lithium batteries adhere to shipping standards previously only required for international air and sea transportation, (b) the detailed information necessary for compliance does not currently exist in any format that the retail sector can access and utilize, (c) tens of thousands of consumer products may be impacted but the necessary information has been obtained from retail suppliers for less than 25 percent of the affected products, (d) more time is needed to develop information technology systems and business processes to identify affected consumer products, and (e) the rule requires the developing, tracking and implementing of training programs for hundreds of thousands of employees to enable them to execute the nuanced marking and labeling requirements of the final rule.

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