New regulations now being proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation would severely restrict the way lithium-ion batteries and equipment containing them are transported, packaged, and labeled – a move that could cost power-tool-users and manufacturers millions of dollars in add-on fees, according to the Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA).

The rule changes would limit the number of batteries allowed per package in air cargo, restrict batteries in both carry-on and checked luggage for air travelers, and require shipments of even small lithium-ion batteries to be identified as "fully regulated hazardous materials," says PRBA executive director George Kerchner. He contends that these changes would adversely affect the entire supply chain, especially in regard to imported and exported goods, and make the U.S. no longer compliant with current international shipping and safety regulations.

Major power tool manufacturers – including Bosch, Black & Decker, and Makita – are PRBA members, along with a Who's Who list of computer, camera, automotive, battery, and electronic product makers and retailers. Although the DOT proposal has the backing of the House Transportation Committee, industry lobbyists are reportedly lining up to oppose the changes. If the ruling passes, it could go into effect as early as 2011.

"We're hoping DOT will recognize the implication of these changes," says Kerchner, "not only for the power-tool industry, but for other industries as well, like automotive, computer-laptop, and notebook manufacturers, retailing, and Internet sales. Lithium batteries are used in so many applications, the implications are enormous."