Pilots want tougher regulations for lithium battery shipments

“ALPA has repeatedly raised questions about the safety and the potential fire hazards associated with shipping lithium batteries by air,” Rogers said in a statement.

“The danger is increased as lithium battery fires may be difficult to extinguish in the best of circumstances, much less tens of thousands of feet in the air," Rogers continued. "We strongly believe that the [International Civil Aviation Organization] requirements provide greater safety for pilots and the traveling public.”

The push for tighter transportation rules comes as lithium batteries are at the center of an investigation into the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" airplane that has led to the plane being grounded since January.

The 787 was grounded after a pair of incidents involving lithium batteries that resulted in at least one electrical fire on board an airplane.

ALPA said the current U.S. rules for transporting lithium batteries by air were too lax because they contain exemptions for large numbers of batteries that come in one package.

By comparison, the union said, the international aviation organization requires shipments containing more than two batteries to be labeled as "dangerous goods" and be inspected prior to being loaded onto airplanes.

ALPA President Lee Moak said the union wanted even more regulations of lithium batteries, but at the bare minimum, it wanted to see U.S. laws match their international counterparts.

“We will continue to call for even stricter guidelines for the transportation of lithium batteries that go beyond ICAO’s provisions,” Moak said in a statement. “But in the meantime, we recommend that PHMSA immediately withdraw its recent rulemaking and issue a final rule to align with ICAO’s technical instructions for the safe air transport of lithium batteries.”

The lithium battery industry has generally favored the change that ALPA is pushing for because it would simplify the process of training employees involved with battery shipments.