The Department of Transportation is renewing efforts to ensure the safe transport of lithium batteries.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Aviation Administration issued a joint safety advisory on Wednesday to promote awareness of a hazard implicated in more than 40 incidents since 1991.
In an Aug. 20 letter to Cynthia Douglass, acting deputy administrator of PHMSA, Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, pointed to three recent incidents as evidence of the urgent need to prohibit lithium battery shipments. (See story).
On July 15, a shipment of several thousand loosely packed cell phone batteries was found smoking after it had been delivered to its destination. On August 14, a shipment of e-cigarettes, which contain lithium batteries, caught fire in an aircraft’s cargo hold.
The two agencies are particularly concerned with proper labeling and declaration of shipments of batteries that contain lithium. The regulations require packing for shipment that prevents breakage, short circuits or overheating.
PHMSA said shippers that violate the regulations governing the transport of lithium batteries could face civil penalties up to $100,000 per violation, or a fine of $500,000 and 10 years in prison for a criminal conviction.
DOT now bans the shipment of lithium batteries on passenger aircraft, but the Air Line Pilots Association called for a ban on all-cargo aircraft as well, until DOT can come up with new regulations.
The PHMSA-FAA advisory may be found online at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-24184.htm
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