Coalition Urges DOT Crack Down on Lithium Battery Shippers That Violate Air Safety Regulations

A broad-based coalition of trade associations representing manufacturers of batteries, consumer electronics and medical devices as well as air freight companies and retailers have urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to act against shippers of lithium and lithium ion rechargeable batteries that fail to comply with applicable air transportation safety regulations.

"The failure of some shippers to comply with these requirements has been the root cause of virtually all of reported air cargo transport incidents," including the three most recent lithium battery incidents on the Federal Aviation Administration’s May 18 list, the 19-member coalition stated in a June 17 letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "Indeed, none of the incidents listed by FAA—and no others of which we are aware—were attributable to properly packaged, compliant shipments," the letter added.

"But the U.S. DOT does not appear to be increasing enforcement pressures on shippers of improperly packaged lithium ion batteries or addressing shippers’ violations of regulations," the coalition’s letter stated.

A "more concerted effort" by DOT to promote international enforcement of existing lithium battery regulations and demonstrate global leadership is needed, the coalition emphasized. DOT’s renewed emphasis on international enforcement should precede enactment of "new and overbroad mandates that would penalize legitimate businesses who ship items in full compliance of the regulations as a standard business practice," the letter stated.

The coalition also emphasized the need for regulatory initiatives to track down the manufacturers of counterfeit batteries and reduce the risks these batteries pose in transportation. The DOT should coordinate enforcement and outreach efforts with regulators in countries where shipments of counterfeit batteries originate and publicize actions taken against non-compliant shippers, the letter said. "But we believe, as we have for a long time, that without active, visible enforcement efforts on the part of U.S. DOT and its counterparts in other countries, shippers who violate the essential safety regulations will not understand the consequences of such illegal actions," the letter said.

The members of PRBA power the consumer electronics revolution. We deliver a safe, efficient, and essential power source for portable electronic equipment such as notebook computers, cell phones, power tools, PDAs, and MP3 players, as well as hybrid and electric vehicles. PRBA members produce approximately 70 percent of the world’s lithium ion cells and account for billions of dollars in annual worldwide sales. With more than 70 members, PRBA is widely recognized as the nation’s authoritative source for information on rechargeable batteries.