Concentrated energy in a small space – that is the recipe for the success of lithium-ion batteries. But as usage increases, so do the risks: The energy bundles are dangerous goods, which must be handled professional.

Exploding or smoldering smartphone batteries are well-known eye-catchers on image and video portals. However, the applications of these energy storage devices have long been becoming increasingly serious. They are used by cordless screwdrivers to forklifts, in private households as well as companies. Compared to previous times lithium-ion batteries are found in ever increasing numbers within consignments. “We reacted to this development, both internally and externally. We specifically train our employees and offer solutions to our customers that also take into account the latest regulations,” stated Dirk Weckes, Business Development & Sales Battery Logistics DHL Freight. Professional handling is absolutely necessary for dealing with rechargeable batteries. For example, lithium-ion accumulators with more than 100 watt hours (Wh) are Class 9 dangerous goods, while less powerful exemplars are subject to simplified requirements.

 Battery shipping

Dangerous goods – regulated in detail

The increased importance of lithium-ion batteries is also clear from the fact that there has been a new subclass 9A since January 1, 2017. It deals exclusively with how to label an according shipment. The accumulators are also covered in the 20th revised edition of the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. These UN Model Regulations, also known as the Orange Book, issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) include new or amended rules on:


  • Cargo transport units containing lithium batteries
  • Packaging instructions for damaged or defective units
  • The availability of inspection reports of lithium batteries
  • Transport of vehicles propelled by flammable liquid, flammable gas, fuel cells, or batteries
  • The Orange Book is effectively the holy grail of all dangerous goods regulations and also the foundation for the 2019 issues of ADN, ADR, RID, and the IMDG code (see box).


Danger awareness – honing the skills

Regulatory compliance is routine for dangerous goods specialists, but absolutely new territory for many people who have not yet handled dangerous goods. They include, for example:

  • Shippers and transporters of electric power tools
  • Warehouse operators who use battery-operated forklifts and pallet trucks in their facilities
  • Postal and parcel agencies, often operated by retailers, who store, hand out, and accept shipments to and from private customers

Waste management companies

“We’re working on creating a risk awareness through the specific transfer of expertise in this area. It’s important to convey the correct handling of energy storage devices and to provide information about the correct labeling of the secondary and tertiary packaging,” says Stefan Brunner, Vice President – Global Sector Head Automotive DHL Freight.


Helping hands – the first steps

For new entrants into the world of dangerous goods transport, the official regulations can be very cumbersome. For a first overview, an assortment of brief and to the point leaflets offer a quick overview and help avoiding costly blunders:

Publication about issues of loss prevention during handling of lithium batteries from the Deutsche Versicherungswirtschaft e. V. (GDV)

With the proliferation of lithium-ion batteries, dangerous goods will move from being a special transport issue to becoming a normal case. Accordingly, the regulations are still developing. Keeping up with the ongoing changes will present a challenge.


Important dangerous goods regulations


  • ADN (Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises dangereuses par voie de navigation intérieure/European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways)
  • ADR (Accord européen relatif au transport international des marchandises Dangereuses par Route/European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road)
  • IATA DGR (International Air Transport Association Dangerous Goods Regulations)
  • ICAO TI (International Civil Aviation Organization Technical Instructions)
  • IMDG-Code (International Maritime Code for Dangerous Goods)
  • RID (Règlement concernant le transport international ferroviaire de marchandises Dangereuses /Regulation concerning the International Transport of Dangerous Goods by Rail)