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USPS: New Mailing Standards for Lithium Batteries

USPS Revises Publication 52, Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail standards to align with other agencies.

On July 26, 2017, the United States Postal Service announced revisions via a Federal Register noticed titled "Revision to Mailing Standards for Lithium Batteries" (82 FR 34712-34715). The International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO's) published addendum number 3 to its Technical Instructions on January 15,2016 and addendum number 4 on February 23, 2016. Following ICAO's publication, the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published its final rule titled "Hazardous Materials: Harmonziation with International Standards RRR," HM-215N (82 FR 15796-15897). These regulatory changes prompted USPS to update it's rules to harmonize the agencies.


Some noteworthy changes are outlined below:


•         Limit UN3480, lithium-ion batteries to surface transportation only, increase quantity to 5 lbs/package    

▫   Two text marking options:

-  “Surface Mail only, Secondary Lithium Batteries – Forbidden for Transportation Aboard Passenger Aircraft”

-  “Surface Mail only, Lithium-ion Batteries – Forbidden for Transportation Aboard Passenger Aircraft”

•         Align marking and labeling requirements with DOT, as applicable

▫   Beginning 1/1/2018 the mark must appear on the address side of the package and cannot overlap edges of the box

▫   USPS capacity/quantity limitation eliminate the need for the Class 9 Lithium Batter warning label

•         Eliminate documentation requirement

▫   Removes former requirement of document including information that is now conveyed by the lithium battery mark.

•         Adopt rigid packaging requirements

▫   Align USPS packaging requirement with the DOT requirement for outer packaging

▫   Exception for button-cell batteries packaged in equipment: padded bags or poly bags may be used when cells or batteries are afforded equivalent protection by the equipment in which are contained.

•         Adopt new “consignment” definition

▫   Consignment – one or more mail pieces containing lithium batteries, entered into USPS networks by one mailer or mail service provider within a single mailing or retail transaction, or included in the same manifest or shipping services file, and intended for delivery to a single location

  Domestic mail – Require DOT-approved lithium battery mark on all mail pieces containing lithium cells or batteries contained in equipment when there are more than two mail pieces in a single consignment in domestic mail

§  International mail – limit a single consignment to two mail pieces containing lithium batteries for international and APO/FPO/DPO mail

▫   If you are sending a single lithium battery to a recipient, no mark required. People were avoiding labeling requirements by shipping each battery separately even though they all had the same destinations.  

•         Add exceptions for Alaska and some medical devices.

▫   Intra-Alaska mail – due to ground transportation limitations, small UN3480 batteries that would otherwise be restricted to ground may utilize air transportation within Alaska. This exception does apply to mail transported from the lower-48 to Alaska.

▫   Critical medical devices – USPS will consider exceptions for small UN3480 batteries for critical medical devices in air transport.

For more information concerning the USPS revisions, see the USPS Postal Bulleting 22474


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