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Automotive Batteries Are in Which Hazard Class?

nine classes of hazardous materials chart
Nine classes of hazardous materials

There is a plethora of battery types used in automotives, and they do not all fall into the same hazardous material category. This begs the question, which hazard class are automotive batteries an example of? Depending on the battery type, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and DOT (Department of Transportation) regulate it differently. The vast majority of vehicles with an internal combustion engine use lead-acid batteries, this battery type falls into hazard class 8 (Corrosive Materials) because the sulfuric acid in these batteries causes irreversible damage to human skin and has a severe corrosion rate on steel. However, hybrid and electric vehicles are often powered by lithium-ion batteries that fall into hazard class 9 (Miscellaneous Dangerous Substances). Hazard class 9 encompasses materials that present a risk in transport but do not easily fall into the first eight categories. Alongside the lithium-ion batteries class 9 includes dry ice, certain first aid kits, and fuel cell engines.

Why This Matters to You:

Failing to comply with government HAZMAT regulations is likely to seriously disrupt your operations through shipping delays, enormous government fines, carrier-imposed fines, jail time, and/or revocation of shipping rights. This is why it is so crucial to classify hazardous materials correctly, because each DOT hazard class has different requirements for markings, labels, and packing methods – be sure to get the classification step right.

The Two Main Battery Types:

Wet/Flooded Batteries:
This category includes the original and most common style – the traditional unsealed lead-acid battery. This type of battery holds liquid in an unsealed container and requires extra care when handling. Modern constructions of this battery include the development of valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries that are now sealed, and this development eliminates the need and ability for most maintenance requirements. However, even though there is a wide variety of battery styles for this category, these batteries are still filled with acid and hold an electric charge and therefore fall into DOT hazard class 8.

Multiple lead acid batteries
lead acid batteries

There are many specific rules regulating the transport of lead acid batteries, some of which include packing a single battery per container, the packaging must be plastic, and using separate covers that mark the terminals of the battery. Labeling correctly is critical, you can avoid very costly mistakes by reviewing the specified guidelines for transporting hazardous materials.

Lithium-Ion Batteries:
Lithium-ion batteries are used to run hybrid or electric vehicles and are categorized as a class 9 hazmat product. As such, they have different packaging and labeling requirements than lead-acid batteries.

lithium-Ion battery
Lithium-Ion battery pack

The Basic Steps to Shipping Automotive Batteries:

As previously explained, lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries are considered hazardous materials by the EPA and DOT. The following steps are not an exhaustive list of essential actions in the battery shipping process however, it is a helpful guide to follow in the general process of shipping batteries. The process can be complicated, and the financial penalties for mistakes can be staggeringly high, but fortunately they are avoidable if you pay attention to the following steps.

            Step 1: Classify the material

All hazardous materials are required to be labeled with a safety data sheet (SDS) to protect the handlers. It is essential that you accurately report the hazard category.

            Step 2: Select a carrier

There are four major carriers in the US, and each have a unique set of rules for shipping hazardous materials and charges for specific items. USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL are established hazardous materials carriers.

            Step 3: Identify the proper packaging

There are many specific details regarding the proper packaging of batteries. Some batteries are required to be packaged in plastic, separate from other packages, stacked in a certain way, and there are even restrictions on the number of batteries per package. Due to the fact that each carrier has different regulations, be sure to review both the federal and carrier-specific guidelines.

            Step 4: Mark and label the package

Depending on the hazard class, the size of the battery, and weight label requirements will vary. Be precise in marking your labels because simple errors here can prevent shipping.

            Step 5: Paperwork

Some carriers require additional paperwork for HAZMAT items. Do not neglect to consult with the carrier about the necessary documentation for your package.

To Review:

There are many types of batteries used in automotives, lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries are the two most common and fall into hazard class 8 and 9 respectively. Failing to comply with government regulations in your handling of these hazardous materials can result in high fines – not to mention the possible physical damage done by being negligent. Lastly, it is recommended that you do your due diligence and pay close attention to regulations on the battery type that you may be seeking to ship.

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Written By Royalty Speed
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