Apple is reported to have opposed stricter regulations restricting lithium-battery shipments by air, leading the US Department of Transportation to seek comments on whether the rules should be aligned with those of the UN.

The reason for regulations regarding the transportation of lithium-batteries by air is that they can spontaneously combust. The UN rules, which will become effective on 1 January 2013, state that pilots must be notified when lithium batteries are on a flight, shipments should be labelled as hazardous materials, and employees should have training in handling such cargo. (More below)

Without new safety rules, there would be the risk that fires from lithium batteries could destroy a US-registered cargo jet as often as every two years, according to US and Canadian aviation regulator study. Lithium-batteries were part of the cargo aboard two US jets destroyed in fires since 2006, notes Bloomberg in a report.

The Department of Transportation posted a notice on the Federal Register’s website on Monday requesting public comment on “harmonizing” its rules with the UN’s.

 

The UN rules are supported by Airlines for America and the Rechargeable Battery Association which represents companies including Apple, Samsung and Motorola.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a non-government body under the UN, recently adopted the lithium battery provisions that will become effective on 1 January 2013. Airlines for America spokesman Steve Lott, told Bloomberg that the US government should “align its regulations with the new standards recently adopted by ICAO”.

Jeannie Layson, director for governmental, international and public affairs for the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said: “We are asking the public to provide additional comments on the potential impact of adopting these ICAO standards.”

Samsung has also opposed the stricter regulations.