[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 225 (Wednesday, November 21, 2012)]
[Pages 69927-69928]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-28238]



Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

[Docket No. PHMSA-2012-0280; Notice No. 12-11]

Safety Advisory Notice: Safety Advisory for Shippers and Carriers 
of Air Bags

AGENCY: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), 

ACTION: Safety Advisory Notice.


SUMMARY: PHMSA has been alerted by the National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration (NHTSA) that counterfeit air bags have been sold as 
replacement parts to consumers and repair professionals. These 
counterfeit products may contain unapproved explosives and thus pose 
additional transportation risks when compared to air bags manufactured 
through legitimate means. Therefore, PHMSA is issuing this Safety 
Advisory Notice to (1) notify shippers and carriers of problems 
involving counterfeit air bags; (2) provide guidance on the proper 
classification of air bags; (3) specify provisions applicable to 
devices containing unapproved explosives; and (4) provide the next 
steps that PHMSA will take to address this problem. Consumers or repair 
professionals who suspect they have a counterfeit air bag should 
contact a call center established by their auto manufacturer. A list of 
these call centers and other additional information, including the list 
of vehicles that may contain counterfeit air bags, can be found at 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Field Operations Division, Office of 
Hazardous Materials Safety, (202) 366-

[[Page 69928]]

4700, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590.


I. Background

    PHMSA was recently advised by NHTSA that consumers and repair 
professionals may face a potential safety risk involving the sale of 
counterfeit air bags for use as replacement parts. Some of these 
devices look nearly identical to legitimate products, including the 
branding of certain major automakers. While NHTSA is not aware of any 
fatalities or injuries that have resulted from counterfeit equipment, 
their testing has shown malfunctioning ranging from non-deployment of 
the air bag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment. NHTSA 
estimates this problem affects a minute percent of vehicles in the U.S. 
vehicle fleet. NHTSA described the risk in a press release as ``only 
vehicles which have had an air bag replaced within the past three years 
by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership may be at 
risk.'' NHTSA's press release is available at the following URL: http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2012/Safety+Advisory:+NHTSA+Alerting+Consumers+to+Dangers+of+Counterfeit+Air+Bags.

II. Current Regulatory Requirements

    Many air bags incorporate a pyrotechnic device, known as an 
initiator or electric match, consisting of an electrical conductor 
cocooned in combustible material. A current pulse heats up the 
conductor, which in turn ignites the combustible material and the 
reaction causes gases that fill the air bag. Air bags that deploy a 
pyrotechnic device meet the definition of an explosive for which PHMSA 
has regulatory authority. These air bags must be approved by PHMSA 
before the air bag is authorized for transportation in commerce. An air 
bag without an approval, including a counterfeit air bag, is considered 
a forbidden explosive as specified in Sec.  173.54(a) of the Hazardous 
Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR parts 171-180) and may not be 
offered for transportation or transported in commerce.
    The classification and packing group requirements contained in the 
HMR provide for the safe transportation of properly manufactured and 
approved air bag products. In addition to classification by the 
shipper, each air bag is required to acquire approval by the Associate 
Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety (Sec.  173.166(b)). This 
approval is a mechanism of ensuring that these products, which contain 
pyrotechnic initiators, meet the appropriate safety standards.
    An approved airbag may be shipped under the description ``UN3268, 
Air bag inflators, or Air bag modules, or Seat-belt pretensioners, 9, 
PGIII.'' The air bag must be in rigid, outer packaging that meets the 
general packaging requirements of part 173, packaging specification 
requirements of part 178, and is designed and constructed to prevent 
movement of the articles and inadvertent operation. Authorized 
packagings are as follows: 1A2, 1B2, 1G or 1H2 drums; 3A2 or 3H2 
jerricans; and 4C1, 4C2, 4D, 4F, 4G or 4H2 boxes. Shipments of Class 9 
air bags are required to display a Class 9 label, according to Sec.  
173.166(f). In addition, as stated in Sec.  173.166(c), when offered 
for transportation, shipping papers accompanying an air bag must 
contain the EX number or product code for each approved device.

III. PHMSA Guidance for Unapproved Explosives

    PHMSA recognizes the increased transportation hazards presented by 
the shipping of suspected counterfeit devices and potentially 
unapproved explosives. Suspected counterfeit air bags are subject to 
approval by the Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety 
as explosive devices, using the classification criteria in Sec.  
173.56. In accordance with Sec.  173.54(a) a forbidden explosive is an 
explosive that has not been approved as specified in Sec.  173.56. 
Therefore, per Sec.  173.21(b), the offering for transportation or 
transportation of an unapproved explosive is forbidden by the HMR.
    Information regarding training as well as guidance documents 
regarding the requirements of the HMR can be found on PHMSA's Hazardous 
Materials Safety Web site at http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat. The HMR 
are also accessible through our Web site, and answers to specific 
questions regarding the HMR may be obtained from the Hazardous 
Materials Information Center at 1-800-467-4922 (in Washington, DC, call 

IV. Next Steps

    PHMSA and NHTSA are continuing to work with our partners at the 
U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Commercial Targeting and Analysis 
Center to identify and target potential manufacturers and importers of 
these unapproved devices in order to prevent the entry of unsafe 
products into the U.S. PHMSA continues to work with the regulated 
community to assess and monitor concerns related to the reverse 
logistics of these devices. In an effort to further the investigation 
on the sale of counterfeit air bags, if a shipper or carrier believes 
they are in possession of an unapproved device, please contact the 
Hazardous Materials Information Center at 1-800-467-4922 (in 
Washington, DC, call 202-366-4488).

    Issued in Washington, DC, on November 14, 2012, under authority 
delegated in 49 CFR Part 106.
Magdy El-Sibaie,
Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, Pipeline and 
Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
[FR Doc. 2012-28238 Filed 11-20-12; 8:45 am]