Josie Sharp had her work cut out for her when Hoechst Marion Roussel (HMR) in Kansas City, MO merged with Rhone Poulenc Rorer (RPR) in Collegeville, PA to form Aventis Pharmaceuticals on Dec. 20, 1999. The transaction included merging the 2,400-vehicle fleet of RPR with the 2,800-vehicle fleet of HMR. Sharp, who was fleet specialist for RPR, was promoted to manager, fleet and safety for RPR, and took charge of all fleet responsibilities associated with the HMR fleet and hired a fleet safety specialist, a fleet administrator, and an administra­tive assistant. Aventis went out to bid to merge the fleet to one leasing company, and is now with ARI. The company has also moved its offices from Collegeville, PA to Bridgewater, NJ, and Sharp has moved from her home in Coopersburg, PA to Easton, PA.

"So all at one time, I was transitioning the fleet, going out to bid, moving the office, moving from my house, and hiring new staff," Sharp said in an interview with Automotive Fleet. "It's been an interesting and challenging year."

Sharp said her first step after the merger was to meet with everyone in­volved with the fleet at HMR to learn and understand HMR's programs and policies. Many policies were similar to RPRs, and others were not. Safety programs were different. Another difference was that HMR used the imputed income method to charge for personal use of vehicles, while RPR used a flat monthly charge and payroll deduction. That changed, and as of Jan. 1,2001, Aventis charges a flat monthly personal use charge for all drivers. Another change was that Aventis includes Ford, General Motors and Daimler Chrysler vehicles in its fleet. Previously, RPR used Ford and Daimler Chrysler, while HMR used GM and DaimlerChrysler. Sharp said mergers are difficult with employees out in the field. Immediately after the merger, HMR em­ployees at first did not know who to call with fleet questions. "They didn't know me, and I didn't know them," Sharp said.

"They, of course, have found me, and we tried to make the transition smooth by activating an Aventis Web site, along with e-mail and U.S. mail. Our main ob­jective was to make the transition seam­less and keep our drivers on the road doing their job. With the help of ARI, we are achieving that objective. We tried to take the best from both companies to es­tablish an Aventis fleet."