Airline passengers would be affected too, as rules banning would also be extended to alkaline and nickel metal-hydride batteries, argues George Kerchner, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Portable Rechargeable Battery Association.
"It will be a nightmare for passengers," Kerchner said.
On January 8th, the department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) announced plans to eliminate exceptions on small lithium cells and batteries, defined as less than 100-watt hours in capacity (typical laptop batteries hold 60-80 watt-hours).
Small lithium batteries are considered a class 9 hazardous material, a miscellaneous category which includes dry ice and magnetized goods. Batteries under the 100 watt-hour limit had long been exempted from the rules.
The PHMSA, in consulting with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with related legislative committees, says undoing the exception will force vendors and transport companies to use stronger packaging and cut down on the number of accidents.